This will be music to the ears of beleaguered HR officers in children’s social services departments; 40,000 people have registered an interest to join the profession since last September.
Figures from the Children’s Workforce Development Council demonstrate that the government’s recruitment drive – launched in the wake of the Laming Review last year, along with a national PR campaign – is starting to pay dividends.
Called Be The Difference, the campaign has run – and is currently running again – on the major commercial terrestrial channels and Sky, complemented by radio, print, cinema and billboard advertising.
The campaign has painted social work in a positive light – heavily sugar coating it, some cynics in the sector have said to me – and the difference it can make to children’s lives. And it seems to have worked, judging by these figures – indeed, 5,000 signed up in one day earlier in the month.
While some of those who have signed up won’t make it to, or through, the social work course, it is still a significant boost to ordinary recruitment levels.
Of course, it will still be some time before any of these recruits are ready for the frontline – a postgraduate conversion course takes 2 years, for instance – but it indicates that the recruitment crisis, in children’s services at least, may start to ease in the foreseeable future.
While those struggling under mountainous caseloads may still say that this is too long to wait, it is nevertheless good news for everyone involved in children’s social work. If a majority of these eventually make it to the frontline, it will help to reduce workloads, enable social workers to dedicate more time to individual cases and, hopefully improve outcomes for service users.
Let’s hope this early evidence of the strategy making a difference convinces the powers that be to maintain this drive – in recruitment and other areas – so that it does deliver positive change to the sector in the next few years.