As previously reported, the local authority is using an approach of trying to ‘grow its own’ social workers against a national backdrop of struggles to get and keep the right staff.
Its AYSE (Assessed and Supported Year in Employment) Academy, launched in 2018 and the first in the North East, aims to support people in their first year of employment and in the transition from academic study ‘to ensure social workers keep children at the heart of everything they do’.
The case-loads of these newly-qualified social workers are managed to prevent them from being overwhelmed when they are just starting out in their careers.
An update to a meeting of the authority’s family and children’s services committee on March 4 revealed that the fourth cohort of eight social workers have just started and the aim is to continue recruiting two cohorts, a total of 16 people, each year.
The positions are over-subscribed, with Adele Wright, the council’s head of safeguarding, saying: “Recruitment has been a joy, it has been easy. We are able to appoint and recruit really high-calibre staff into the academy.”
The report to councillors also noted that the retention of the academy’s social workers is good, with only one leaving since August 2018.
Sickness absence has been low as well, with no absences due to work-related stress – a ‘significant challenge within children’s social care nationally’.
The overall sickness rate in children’s social care at September last year was 4.83%, but in the ASYE academy, it was 0.43%.
The academy was also praised in the recent Ofsted inspection report, which rated the council’s children’s social-care services as good across the board.
It says that ‘significant financial investment by the council has resulted in a strong and valued academy for newly-qualified social workers’, which ‘has enabled a culture of high support, protected case-loads and enhanced learning opportunities’.
It adds: ‘Newly-qualified social workers are trained to practise in accordance with the local authority’s chosen social-work model that underpins some very positive engagement and interventions with families.’