A programme designed to retain newly-qualified children’s social workers who join Lancashire County Council has achieved a near-100 percent success rate.
Out of 44 staff who have completed the twelve month scheme, only one has left the authority - and that was to emigrate. Two others have moved into roles in the adult social services department.
The social work academy was set up just over a year ago with the aim of encouraging recently qualified staff to stay with the council once they were given a job - and enhance the quality of children’s social care in the process.
A meeting of the authority’s children’s services committee heard that the first two cohorts to attend the programme were already beginning to make an impact.
"It's important that we have a stable and more experienced workforce," Acting Director of Children’s Services, Sally Allen, said.
"The feedback from young people and families is that the relationship with their social worker is so important."
Newly qualified staff attend the course for ten days and receive training in the practical aspects of their role, as well as a programme which takes them through the journey that a child will experience once they are referred to social services. The social workers then return for extra training and assessment on four occasions during their first year of work.
The committee heard that staff found the support of others attending the academy invaluable.
“The biggest thing was meeting people who were starting in the role just like me - and coming back and hearing [their] good and bad experiences in this difficult job of being a social worker,” recent recruit Steph Vickers said.
The meeting was also told of broader training to help new staff get used to court proceedings. and committee member Anne Cheetham welcomed the arrival of “slightly younger” social workers.
“As a former chairman of the bench for youth in East Lancashire, I always felt that [the age of the social workers] was a slight weakness. I think we had only two colleagues who really knew every element of our [young people’s] lifestyles,” County Cllr Cheetham said.
“Sometimes we did have great grandmas sitting there - and lifestyles change and society changes,” she added.
The social work academy is attended by all social workers joining Lancashire County Council, even those with experience - they undertake a shorter version of the course.
Last year, Lancashire County Council’s service was moved out the inadequate category in which it was placed by the regulator OFSTED in 2015 - but was still found to require improvement.