Cornwall Council develops innovative approach to recruitment of children’s social workers.

In the news today, the BBC suggest that with almost a fifth of all children’s social worker posts in England are currently vacant, with many councils are reporting problems in recruiting and retaining their staff. Is this the case in Cornwall?

Cornwall’s children’s social care service currently has 225 full-time equivalent children’s social workers, with vacancies filled by agency social workers. Around 10% of Children’s social workers are agency staff, which is lower than both the South West and the national average.

In trying to address any potential problems in recruitment Cornwall Council has developed an innovative approach that provides local solutions to a national issue.

The recruitment of social workers who have the values, motivation and passion to make a real difference to families in Cornwall has been at the heart of the reform programme within Children’s Early Help, Psychology and Social Care Services over the last four years.

In Cornwall Council are committed to those who want to work with our most vulnerable children and young people and have developed a ‘grow your own’ approach where the Council offers opportunities for local people who are living in and are committed to Cornwall to train to become social workers. This has proved to be very successful, with around 18 people training to become social workers at any one time.

The success of our “grow our own” scheme means that we have been able to recruit and retain high quality staff who are working very hard to keep our children and young people safe.  We are also seeing applications from experienced staff in other parts of the country who are impressed by what we are doing in Cornwall.

As well as offering placements to students and running our trainee programme, the Service also attracts experienced social workers through its excellent skills based, evidence-informed learning and development programme, with access to post-qualifying accredited learning in our partnership with Plymouth University. 

The Council has established Career and Qualification Pathway that promotes learning and practice, and rewards the most experienced social workers who stay in practice. This summer we will launch our ‘Return to Social Work’ scheme to offer opportunities for those who have had a break in their career to refresh their knowledge, skills and practice.

As the Lead Member for Children’s Services at Cornwall Council I want to acknowledge the fantastic job in what can often be difficult and challenging circumstances and I would like to publicly thank them for their hard work and commitment.

Thank you.


We should support Social Workers, not criminalise them

Let’s make one thing clear, Child Sexual Exploitation is an abhorrent crime and we must do all we can to eradicate it. Those who prey on the vulnerable for their own sexual pleasure should be brought to justice. CSE is a crime. There is no place for CSE in our society. It is important to say CSE is not just the responsibility of social workers, but it is everyone’s business, and the only way to deal with this issue is for all agencies to work together to eradicate CSE.

It makes your heart sink when you read the detail behind Rotherham and other similar incidents. You really wonder how such a complete system failure happened. The system did fail, and we must all learn from those failures. I know as the Lead Member for Children and Young People in Cornwall my head, along with the Director of Children’s Service (DCS) head, is on the chopping block if it all goes wrong in the department. This responsibility drives you to make sure you are protecting children.

Today, the Prime Minister wants to criminalise teachers, social workers and Councillors who turn a blind eye to child abuse. Those are strong words indeed. However, is threatening frontline social workers with jail is not the way to keep children safe?

Following the announcement by Prime Minister, Prof Brigid Featherstone, Chair of The College’s Children and Families Faculty, said:

“While we recognise that a strong response is needed to the deplorable practice of child sexual exploitation, threatening to jail frontline social workers is not the answer. We have been similarly clear about this in relation to mandatory reporting, for which there is no sound evidence.   Not only will such a move reinforce an already persecutory climate for those struggling to deliver services in difficult times, but the proposals also fail to address the incredibly important safeguarding issues that recent Serious Case Reviews have raised.

We need support and training of staff at all levels on how to recognise, report on, and help stop child abuse. We must also ensure a full and effective range of responses to different forms of abuse. We must address the severe lack of investment in child protection services, which has put organisations and systems under incredible strain and systems under incredible strain and reduced their capacity for in-depth work with children and their families.”

As a Lead Member I wholeheartedly welcome the comments by Prof Brigid Featherstone. Threatening frontline workers with jail and using fear was not the best way of protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse.  Cornwall Children’s Services has remained focused on training social workers, and creating the conditions for effective relationship based practice in the current climate of reduced spending required by all authorities.

It is vital that we support our social workers who are doing a very demanding and difficult job in keeping children safe. This was highlighted at a recent Local Safeguarding Children Board conference I attended where Professor Ray Jones stressed that child abuse is not just the responsibility of social work, but for all those who work in public services.

As I said in the title, let’s support Social Workers, not criminalise them.