London Councils has announced that the capital’s children’s social care departments are collaborating more than ever, helping to avoid the rising costs of expensive agency staff and potential ‘bidding wars’ over social workers.
With mounting financial pressures coming alongside challenges with the recruitment and retention of children’s social workers, it has been agreed that pay rates will cover the entire capital, with boroughs also committing to a policy of not using agency candidates that have left permanent posts in London within the space of six months.
A consultation on use of children’s social care agencies was also launched by the government recently, being published alongside a new strategy for children’s social care.
The new level of collaboration is said to have reduced competition between boroughs as they look to recruit staff, with them also working closer with agency suppliers. This brings a better level of control to the costs being expended on social care workers, whilst also keeping up the high standards required in the role.
Cllr Ian Edwards, London Councils’ Executive Member for Children and Young People, said:
“When it comes to children’s social care workforce strategies, replacing competition with collaboration will bring big benefits to boroughs and our staff – but most importantly to the vulnerable children we work with.
“The London Pledge is an important step forward. Although it only started six month ago, we are already seeing some improvements, and we are keen to investigate the potential for more collaboration across the country. London boroughs firmly believe this collegiate approach will bring much-needed stability and improve results for everyone.”
The capital plays host to around 5,600 children’s social care workers, making up 22% of the overall workforce. With this in mind, a stable workforce will bring huge benefits to the communities and children that are relying on these services. Children have previously expressed their frustration at frequent changes, with the minimisation of staff turnover allowing workers to forge long-term relationships with children and provide better outcomes.
Launched in July 2022, a formal London Pledge was committed to by almost all of the boroughs, ensuring that the sector is transparent and contributing to improving the working environment to the benefit of the staff and the people using the children’s social care services. There are some warnings, however, that unhelpful competition does remain with local authorities outside of London, with boroughs believing that the best strategy would be to ensure closer collaboration nationally.