Social worker shortage at Midlothian Council

Thursday September 6th 2018

Social worker shortage at Midlothian Council

Written by Marie Sharp, Local Democracy Reporter

A recruitment policy which demands new social workers start at the bottom has come under fire for potentially putting off experienced staff.

Midlothian Council’s economic director has confirmed the local authority insists all new employees are taken on at the bottom grade.

And she said while it was possible to make a case for a more experience new start to be brought in at a higher grade, the local authority preferred to “grow its own”.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Dr Mary Smith, director of education, community and economy, told members: “In Midlothian we find it is best to grow your own and give them that really good training background.”

Dr Smith said that the policy was made clear on recruitment documents.

She said: “Midlothian’s policy for any new starts is that they go to the bottom of the grade. However, if you can make the argument for putting someone up the grade then you would try and do that.

“It has been very difficult to recruit experienced social workers and team leaders.

“We have a good training programme for our social workers but, unfortunately, sometimes when you train people so well they then choose to go to these neighbouring local authorities.”

Councillor John Hackett, however, questioned whether this was adding to recruitment issues after a report on the performance of the council’s children’s services revealed problems replacing experienced staff.

It said: “Recent application for vacancies has highlighted the gap in experienced workers applying for these positions.”

Councillor Hackett said: “What this is highlighting is that you need them ready out the oven tomorrow and if that is the case it strikes me as strange if we are going out with an advert which says you are going to start at the bottom of the grade despite your experience.”

Grace Vickers, chief executive, said there was flexibility in the policy with people able to make the case to be brought in on a higher grade but there had to be evidence provided of their experience.

Councillor Hackett questioned whether it was made clear when they advertised as it could be deterring applicants.

It was agreed the council would look into how posts were advertised and consider adding a salary scale into future recruitment adverts.

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