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New measures to boost care for Devon’s vulnerable children

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A £3.4 million package of measures to recruit and retain high quality social workers to help and support Devon’s most vulnerable children has been revealed.

Devon County Council says it has a significant shortage of social workers in some key areas such as support for the most vulnerable children and families, care for disabled children and its safeguarding hub.

It has been working with high vacancy levels which is hampering attempts to improve children’s services across the board.

The new measures include better pay for key roles, retention payments, more administrative support to free up social workers to focus on doing direct work with children and families, and expanding training schemes and workforce development.

The new measures will be discussed by Devon’s Cabinet next Wednesday (Sep 8).

Councillors will hear the package will cost £1.1 million this year – which could be funded from reserves – and £3.4 million in a full financial year.

Devon’s new chief officer for children’s services, Melissa Caslake, will tell the Cabinet:

“We have high ambitions for children and young people in Devon and can only achieve this if we have sufficient, high-quality, permanent social workers and managers to work with families.

“Financial remuneration is important, but we must also create high quality continuing professional development, support and supervision where staff stay with us to progress their careers.

“We can achieve excellent outcomes for children and young people through relationships with them and their families and we are investing in ways of working to achieve this, including this range of measures to retain our existing workforce and recruit more new permanent staff.”

Councillors will hear that there are 195 full-time equivalent social worker posts in Devon’s frontline teams. Last December, 44.5 per cent of those roles were filled by agency staff who cost £28,000 a year more than permanent staff.

Some changes to pay and conditions had reduced that to 30 per cent but Devon still had 19 per cent of vacancies unfilled. Staff often left Devon for better-paying jobs with neighbouring councils.

In her report to Cabinet, Melissa Caslake says Devon launched a new recruitment website at the beginning of the year and has already employed 12 advanced social workers, six permanent social workers and three permanent team managers in its frontline teams.

In addition, 14 newly qualified social workers started this year and eight students on a Master’s degree course had been placed in Devon and would qualify next year and remain with the county council.

Devon’s Cabinet member for children’s services and schools, Andrew Leadbetter, said

“I promised when I took on this job earlier in the year that we would be doing everything in our power to make Devon a place where social workers want to come and help us provide an excellent service to our most vulnerable children and families.

“We are determined to provide the best possible help and support we can to the children who need it most and this comprehensive package of measures is a big step towards achieving that ambition.”