The Same Priorities in Any Language ; A New Recruitment Drive Is Set to Improve the Public's Understanding of Social Work in Wales. by VIRGINIA MATTHEWS
Matthews, Virginia, The Independent (London, England)
Of the three million people living in Wales today, only around 20 per cent are native Welsh speakers. Yet for social workers looking to practise in communities in the West or North-west of the country, an understanding of the Welsh tongue is essential.
The language barrier is just one of a range of recruitment problems facing the talent-starved profession in Wales, says Paul Elliott, the regional head of local government for UNISON in Wales. He believes that while the fallout from the Victoria Climbie case has taken its toll on social work recruitment figures nationally, the specific problems of Wales are as much to do with the competition for scarce resources among the country's 22 unitary authorities as the declining public perception of the profession.
Last October saw the launch in Wales of Faces Of Care, a major new recruitment resource pack by the Welsh Assembly's Task and Finish Group on Workforce Issues in Social Care. The overriding message of Faces Of Care, which is aimed at a wide variety of job- seekers such as students and returners to work, is that there must be a new strategy for "improving the profile, image and understanding of the sector among the wider public".
While there are different estimates as to the total shortfall figure for social workers in Wales, UNISON believes that a new raft of authority- specific pay awards currently being unveiled in and around Cardiff is not the answer. Elliott says that pay rises by individual employers simply encourage social workers to move from authority to authority, while doing nothing to address what are seen by some as low rates of pay generally in the profession.
In the Rhondda Cynon Taff area for example, child protection workers are being offered an additional pounds 1,500 recruitment and retention package, while in the Vale of Glamorgan, it's a pounds 1,000 deal for all social workers. Cardiff meanwhile is proposing to introduce a range of pay increases via a new system of social work grades and the introduction of new posts such as "senior practitioner" for candidates with Masters level degrees.
"We believe that this sort of leapfrogging by authorities merely exacerbates the entire social worker shortage problem, rather than helping to solve it," says Dominic MacAskill, UNISON branch secretary at the union's Rhondda Cynon Taff branch. "We want to see parity across the country with one clear rate of pay for the job wherever it happens to be carried out."
While UNISON believes that a pay increase for social workers in Wales is now well overdue - the last review being in the late Eighties - MacAskill is just as concerned that authorities should be taking steps to "grow their own" supply of social work professionals for the future by establishing innovative new training packages.
"Authorities such as Cardiff freely admit they are offering inducements for social workers to move to wherever the best rate of pay is," he says. "Other authorities are tackling the skills shortage with different tactics such as upgrading assistant social workers to full practitioner status and encouraging them to stay in their local authorities for many years to come. We hope that this type of initiative will also spread to Wales."
In the long-term, says UNISON, there is a pressing need to attract …
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Publication information: Article title: The Same Priorities in Any Language ; A New Recruitment Drive Is Set to Improve the Public's Understanding of Social Work in Wales. by VIRGINIA MATTHEWS. Contributors: Matthews, Virginia - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 24, 2003. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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