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PSW Mag: £15k towards mortgage if you come work for us, social workers told

An English local authority is offering £15,000 towards a mortgage to attract social workers to come and work for them, Professional Social Work magazine has learned.

The incentive is part of a recruitment drive at Derby City Council to address a shortage of experienced practitioners in children’s services and an over-reliance on agency workers.

It comes in the wake of information obtained from the Department for Education (DoE) by the BBC showing almost a fifth of social worker jobs in England are vacant.

Successful candidates will get an initial £5,000 for relocating to the East Midland city and a further £10,000 after a six-month probation period.

Maureen Darbon, Service Director for Early Help and Children’s Safeguarding for the authority, said: “We don’t have a problem recruiting newly qualified social workers but we do have a problem recruiting experienced social workers. This scheme is specifically aimed at recruiting 20 experienced workers. We are offering them £5,000 relocation money which they can access immediately.

“If they pass their probation period we are offering a further £10,000 as a mortgage subsidy. With the two together, you have £15,000 deposit on a house.”

The tax free £10,000 is conditional on buying a property in Derby. If a recruit leaves the authority within five years, it must be paid back according to a sliding scale depending on how long they were employed.

Derby hopes the recruitment incentive will help establish a more stable workforce. Ms Darbon said: “Currently between a quarter and a fifth of social workers in children’s services are agency and it is costing an awful lot of money.”

BASW England Manager Maris Stratulis said the drive was a good example of an authority thinking outside the box to recruit social workers.

“In the face of high vacancy rates, councils must be creative and innovative if they are to get the staff they need,” she said. "It’s great to see incentive schemes like this being used. They also underline how much social workers are needed.

“Such initiatives must be run in parallel with investment in workforce development, providing a supportive and conducive work environment that truly values the worth and contribution of skilled and experienced social workers."

1 in six social worker roles in England is being filled by an agency worker, according to the BBC survey. Figures from the DoE show 5,470 social work jobs out of 26,500 full time equivalent posts were vacant at the end of September 2015. Of these, 3,850 were filled by agency staff. 

Better pay offered by agency work is one of the reasons cited for the high vacancy rate. Tim Aldridge, head of children’s services in the London Borough of Havering, told the BBC: “This is for several reasons including the public sector pay freeze seeing only one per cent increases since 2010, compared to the salaries on offer to agency workers in the range of £30 an hour or more.

This story will appear in the May issue of PSW. Click here for more information about PSW