Sheffield social workers quitting job after “burnout”

Sheffield social workers are facing “burnout” as they struggle with high caseloads, leading to many of them leaving the job.

The council has found it difficult to recruit and retain qualified and experienced social workers and has become reliant on agency staff, says the Children’s Social Care Task Group.

Neighbouring authorities and agencies are also enticing Sheffield social workers with higher rates of pay, says a report by the Task Group.

“The main issues being faced by the council are the recruitment and retention of qualified and experienced social workers. This has led to the employment of a significant number of agency workers,” says the report.

“Burnout is an issue and high caseloads have a detrimental impact, even though the council’s efforts to reduce these have been extremely successful and this is continuously being monitored.

“As a result, the council has become over reliant on inexperienced staff with high levels of churn in the workforce. In terms of pay and reward, it was felt that the council had lost out to neighbouring authorities and also potentially to agencies, both of whom are able to pay higher rates than Sheffield.

“The Task Group received evidence that social workers’ rewards following qualification and higher level of experience were to take on more complex and child protection cases, but with only small increases in pay. They felt very strongly that this needs to be addressed.”

The Task Group spoke to some frontline managers and found staff struggled with office based work in the “hub” as opposed to fieldwork.

“Members discovered that the level of investment in technology and resources being seen in fieldwork is not mirrored in the hub and staff are struggling with the numbers of calls and referrals being dealt with.

“Examples of supportive resources required within the hub were mobile phones, large screen monitoring call status and volume and desk spaces.

“Members did welcome the replacement of the outdated system as they heard how many difficulties [the original system] had been causing practitioners and managers alike.”

The good news is social workers who had left for neighbouring authorities were starting to return and that agency staff working in Sheffield were applying for permanent jobs with the authority.

The report says: “This suggests that the motivation to work for Sheffield isn’t entirely financial and that other factors have an influence. The discussion with frontline social workers revealed a loyalty to Sheffield and indicated that staff morale was higher than might be expected. Task Group members found this to be a very positive factor in Sheffield’s favour.”

The Task Group says the council should welcome the positive attitude that many existing staff have towards working for Sheffield and their experience, skills and levels of responsibility should be recognised.

A clear offer needs to be developed which includes appropriate financial remuneration and captures a unique selling point for working in Sheffield.

The Task Group was set up by the Children, Young People and Family Support Scrutiny Committee.