It is essential Devon County Council remains competitive, but we are not at the moment, and if we are to turn the service around, we have got to get these things right Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the council’s Labour group
Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the council’s Labour group

County council chiefs are to invest more than £700,000 to make Devon a more attractive option for social workers.

The authority’s cabinet heard at its December meeting that there is an urgent need to address the impact of a shortage of qualified professionals.

Ofsted inspectors earlier this year concluded that children’s social care services in Devon were ‘inadequate’ and identified ‘serious failures’.

This included a very small minority of care leavers living in ‘unacceptable’ accommodation.

Ofsted also identified that some children who have suffered chronic neglect and emotional abuse are being left with families for too long.

Eight areas of practice were highlighted as needing to improve.

Devon County Council’s (DCC) ambition is to be a ‘good’ authority whose social workers are well-trained, deliver positive interventions and improve outcomes for children and families.

But to achieve this ambition, they need a stable and largely permanent workforce, the meeting heard.

Members agreed to improving salaries for experienced social workers, team managers and independent reviewing officers.

They also backed accelerating implementation of a career progression scheme with additional advanced practitioner roles within the service.

Head of children’s social work Rachel Gillott said in a report: “This is to stabilise and value our workforce and promote better outcomes for children and young people.”

Councillor James McInnes, cabinet member for children’s services, said that high use of agency social workers impacts on the experiences of children, families, and the council’s budget.

An agency worker on average costs £28,300 more per year than a permanent worker.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the council’s Labour group, said investment was welcome but added: “While I welcome it, I see it as a journey and not a destination.

“It is essential Devon County Council remains competitive, but we are not at the moment, and if we are to turn the service around, we have got to get these things right,” he said.

Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, added: “While Rome burns, the county reaches for cups of water.

“You are doing what has previously failed. It will favour a few but is more of the same and will create a recruitment crisis in adult services.”

Cabinet members agreed to an additional investment to ensure recruitment and retention of social workers to ‘improve value for money and outcomes for children’.

This will be up to £200,000 this financial year and a further £519,000 in 2021/2022.

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