Councils Look Abroad after Ads for Social Workers Draw No Response
Byline: RHODRI EVAN S
A CRISIS of recruitment in social work has seen Welsh local authorities appointing staff from abroad. In a move reminiscent of Filipino nurses being recruited into Welsh hospitals, at least three Welsh authorities have now recruited foreign staff. Torfaen County Borough has recently recruited four social workers from overseas - three from Romania and a fourth from Kenya.
Cardiff and Newport have also recruited staff from overseas. Newport City Council has three overseas social workers on its books while Cardiff also has social workers recruited from abroad.
The move to take on foreign staff underlines the deepening crisis in the recruitment of social workers.
The jobs they do are vital, protecting the most vulnerable mem-bers of society. In Torfaen around 20% of social work positions are currently unfilled, and the situation in the county is typical of the wider crisis.
Recent cases such as that of Victoria Climbie and the troubles in Cardiff's social services department have once again reinforced the negative messages about social work, putting people off a career in social work.
Torfaen's assistant director of social services Stewart Greenwell said, ``It doesn't mean that we have stopped trying to recruit people throughout the UK. We have got adverts out at the moment in the hope that we can attract people to Torfaen .
``What we became aware of was that there are some countries, particularly in the former communist bloc where there is really high-quality training for social workers but where there are poor prospects for them.''
The new staff are not yet in the country because paperwork is still being processed.
``We are in the process of completing the appropriate health and police checks but we do not anticipate any difficulties,'' said Mr Greenwell.
``They have got good social work qualifications - they will need some help to begin with to understand the policy context and we will be providing a training package. ``They are all very good in communicating verbally and in written English.
``We will evaluate the success of recruiting social workers from overseas to consider whether we will do it again.''
Mr Greenwell admitted that recruitment had been a problem, with some social worker job adverts failing to get a single response.
``If you have got a small team of eight social workers and you have up to four or five vacancies, that becomes a real problem in providing effective services,'' he said.
The authority has also launched a programme to train other staff to social work level as a means to tackle the shortages.
At the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, the number of students who enrolled on the full-time social work undergraduate courses fell from 35 in 2001 to 25 in 2002. However, possibly as a result of the efforts of local authorities to train up staff, applications for next year's courses are already up 41% on last year.
It is also hoped that a new social work degree being created for 2004 will improve the standing of the profession.
But Unison official Ian Titherington said it came as little surprise to him that local authorities were now looking overseas to attract social workers. …