London, United Kingdom (PressExposure) June 09, 2009 -- Hays Social Care, specialist recruitment company, has reported that the recent government announcements to invest in the recruitment of social workers is likely to provide a temporary boost to the numbers employed in the industry, but a longer term action plan is needed to combat the skills shortages that are crippling the industry.
"There has been systematic underinvestment in social care [http://www.hays.com/socialcare/] for many years, which has resulted in a severe shortage of experienced social workers - the latest figures say that one in seven social work positions [http://www.hays.com/socialcare/socialworkjobs.aspx?Ranked=true&RankedId=1228] are currently vacant. The perception of the industry as a whole needs to be addressed and a defined career structure needs to be introduced, so that social work graduates are not lost to the industry," commented John Faraguna, the newly appointed Managing Director of Hays Health and Social Care.
A number of reasons have been put forward to explain the lack of qualified social workers. Salaries for experienced frontline social workers are not as competitive as those for nurses and teachers, and there is a lack of financial assistance to help support them through their ongoing studies. Unlike nurses, social workers [http://www.hays.com/socialcare/QualifiedSocialWorker/] do not receive any funding for their studies. The sponsorship of university places that has just been announced is a small step to encourage workers to pursue these careers.
The majority of social workers in the UK studying for their social work degrees have either changed careers or had previous experience of social care work and decided to retrain later on in life. Local authorities are increasingly looking overseas as a viable solution to plug the skills gap but the figures are still not stacking up.
Hays Social Care has found that those authorities who have tapped into the overseas talent pool have generally been impressed with the calibre of candidates, which has lead the company to receive excellent feedback in almost all cases. However, Hays warns that this is just a drop in the ocean. Paul Marriott, Operations Director for Hays Social Care, remarked, "Putting measures in place to retain the existing workforce is just as important as attracting international candidates or the considerable numbers of social workers that have left the profession. Social workers need the support of management, regular supervision and ongoing training to be provided."
There are also differences depending on the social work specialization and this is another prevalent factor which has led to some professionals leaving the industry altogether. "Childrenâs social workers tend to be stressed, work long hours, have to juggle increasing caseloads in what are often extremely challenging environments. We donât seem to get the same feedback from those working within Adult Services," noted Paul.
While there are an increasing number of individuals who are studying towards a social work degree straight from school or college, finding work experience can be fraught with obstacles. Placing newly qualified social workers into permanent positions is often difficult and many find they have to work initially as unqualified social workers. "Two good placements under your belt will greatly increase employability" concluded Paul.
For further press information please contact: Alexandra Tucker Hays Plc Charter House 13 - 15 Carteret Street London SW1H 9DJ 020 7630 4282 [http://www.hays.com/socialcare]