SHROPSHIRE is improving its social worker retention rate despite a national shortage, a report says.

Children’s Social Care and Safeguarding chief Colleen Male writes that the prospect of internal promotion and retention payments, offered in return for a two-year commitment to stay in post are motivating more social workers to stay.

She says retaining staff is important because the borough’s geographical location makes it difficult to attract new applicants, but a ‘grow your own’ training strategy is producing newly-qualified staff who are also more likely to stay long-term.

Ms Male’s report about recruitment and retention in children’s social care will be discussed by Shropshire Council’s People Overview Committee when it meets on Wednesday, July 17.

She writes: “Nationally there is a shortage of social workers and, like other local authorities, Shropshire struggles to recruit to social work vacancies.

“Due to Shropshire’s location, the pool of social workers available to us is not as wide as other local authorities across the West Midlands.”

Ms Male points out that, since September 2018, three out of 14 team managers left work. All three positions were filled by internal applicants, which created vacancies further down the hierarchy and a “lack of stability across the service”.

In the same period, five social workers, including one senior,  left the 124-strong workforce.

“We are now seeing fewer social workers leave the local authority and we are successful at retaining social workers through either progression or through other opportunities across the service,” she writes.

“Although our leavers rate is relatively low, our vacancy rate due to workers moving across the service was higher than we would have liked – 16 per cent.

“Every vacancy is hard to recruit to. The recruitment of experienced social workers is a key challenge as we attract very few experienced workers into the local authority.

“This is why, for Shropshire, our recruitment strategy is focused on ‘grow your own’ social workers.

“We know that local social workers stay with us, so we are keen to attract local students who we know will then stay with us when they qualify.”

Two graduate training programmes have already provided three new recruits, with four more permanent social workers due to join next month and eight trainee social worker posts for unqualified applicants are being created.

Ms Male adds that retention payments have been introduced, offered to members of some high-vacancy or hard-to-recruit teams who have been in post for two years and require them to commit to two more.

“So far 22 workers have accepted this payment,” she writes.