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‘Things have changed’ Sheffield Council slam social care report

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Sheffield City Council slammed a recent report on social care saying it was outdated and not reflective of current staff experience.

The report, carried out by the Children’s Social Care Task Group, showed staff were quitting their job after “burnout”.

“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,” said 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.”

But Carly Speechley, director of children and families, said they have made leaps in the past year to improve the situation for staff and added that the report was “well over 12 months old.”

She said: “I started in April 2017 and it was one of the first things I recognised and that we needed to respond quickly, because the success or failure of services is very dependant on a permanent and skilled workforce.”

Since then, Ms Speechley said they have invested heavily in the workforce, updated their equipment, gave more training to staff and increased the number of posts by 32 and, in turn, reduced caseloads.

“I would say its working, we have a full establishment at the moment and some agency staff as well,” she said.

“That report was at a moment in time, and that time is not now. Things have changed considerably.”

Last year, the council overspent by millions on children’s services with forecasts for even more in the future.

But Ms Speechley said:  “Demand for services is increasing, we get a lot more referrals in children’s social care and that means we have to have more staff to deal with those.

“I think poverty is increasing, the welfare reforms means we have families who are really struggling and an increasing number of domestic abuse referrals.

“We have continued to invest in children’s and families services but the reduction in terms of what is available has had an impact, so while we are maintaining the investment, that’s not sufficient to deal with the increasing demand.”

She added that staff are now much happier after the changes, and in a recent survey one social worker said: “I am local and have lived in Sheffield my whole life and wanted to make a difference for Sheffield young people”.

Another said: “The team I work in is supportive and friendly. We support each other with our practice.”

Ms Speechley said the issues around social work are nationwide and said Sheffield is coping relatively well.

She added: “I’ve worked all over the country but there’s something very unique about Sheffield, it’s quite a big city with quite a lot of challenges. One of the best things about working here is the whole organisation works together, we all care about our vulnerable children and everybody’s behind us.

“It’s just really challenging times, but it’s the same everywhere. But if you have got to be in a challenge, and want to do the role, here is the best place because we care about you and want to invest in you.”