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New children's social work development academy being created for Cambridgeshire

19 June 2023

Plans are progressing to set up a new social work academy to develop and recruit more social workers to support children and families across Cambridgeshire.

Cambridgeshire County Council has secured nearly £400,000 funding from the Department of Education (DfE) to help set up the academy.

Its foremost aim will be to strengthen the Council’s approach to the recruitment and retention of social workers and their commitment to establishing excellent practice in the workforce – both now and in the future.

Over recent years, Cambridgeshire - along with many other local authorities - has experienced significant challenges in recruiting and retaining good social workers. This is currently being felt even more acutely with high vacancy rates and a heavy reliance on temporary workers.

The Council is committed to delivering outstanding services to its children, young people and their families and a high performing, stable workforce is critical in underpinning its ambitions.

The Council is now seeking to grow the workforce by making best use of the full range of entry routes into social work, whilst also attracting competent and enthusiastic newly qualified workers and upskilling them with a comprehensive package of coaching, support and development.

The Social Work Development Academy will strengthen the authority’s approach to the recruitment and retention of social workers and its commitment to establishing excellent practice in its workforce, as part of the improvement programme of work within Children’s Services.

It will provide a supportive learning environment for newly qualified social workers, international social workers, and those colleagues still developing their practice.

The academy will also care for social workers recruited from overseas so they feel welcomed, supported, and can practise social work in England confidently and safely, while stemming the flow of newly qualified staff choosing to leave by offering enhanced support and embedding protected caseloads for inexperienced colleagues.

A joint investment from the Council and the DfE will see a total of over £1m made available to support the academy during its first year. The County Council will provide £680,000 to match the £396,981 from the DfE. Over £540,000 of this will be spent on international social worker recruitment, with several already recruited from overseas to start with Cambridgeshire in the autumn.

Once fully established, the academy is expected to be supporting 60 to 70 social workers who will be at different points of their social work careers. The academy model will foster a supportive everyday learning culture where good practice can flourish, and practitioners are supported to develop and enhance their skills and expertise.

A Strengthening Services Board has also been set up as part of the Children’s Services Improvement Programme, whose core priorities are:

  • to reduce the number of managers over three years by expanding the number of experienced practitioners of all disciplines across the children’s social care workforce with a focus on reducing the number of agency and less experienced staff
  • to improve recruitment and retention - including strengthening pathways into social care as a profession, ensuring an attractive employment and benefits package to attract high quality staff
  • to review the current staffing structure as part of shared services options review, ensuring a cost-efficient structure, with the right skills in the right places.

Cllr Bryony Goodliffe, Chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Children and Young People’s Committee said: “We are confident that the new Social Work Academy will tackle the historical challenges of recruitment across the profession in Cambridgeshire. It will develop strong leadership and a more stable workforce, and above all provide opportunities for social workers from overseas to join one of the fastest growing areas of the country. It will provide the best support and challenge available, resulting in more manageable caseloads and higher morale amongst staff.”