Recruitment and retention of children and family social workers: a case study

CAUVAIN, Simon C (2010). Recruitment and retention of children and family social workers: a case study. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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It is well established that the social work profession endures problems in recruiting and retaining social workers, especially within children and family teams, but reasons for these problems are not fully understood. The inner-workings of social work are little known outside the profession itself, contributing to a climate of public misunderstanding and vilification. The purpose of this study is, therefore, to open a small window on the world of social work practice, and give fresh insight into why recruitment and retention problems exist, and how they might be resolved. Using a case study of a Children’s Services Directorate this study seeks to explore factors contributing to recruitment and retention problems by examining the experiences of employees in four area offices. Documentary analysis of local data, an ethnographic study of the daily lives of social workers, semi-structured in-depth interviews with eighteen social workers, and a nominal group technique group interview with twenty eight senior managers combine to illuminate the issues at the heart of recruitment and retention of social workers. Although capture of the ecology of social work practice in a universal sense is beyond the aims of this study, a realistic ‘snapshot’ of social work within North City is achieved. Local North City vacancy and turnover rates that exceed national levels helped identify a need for a new ‘real time’ vacancy rate that more closely reflects front line experiences, when compared to the rate calculated using a traditional formula. The data reveals challenges and rewards in being a social worker, high levels of resilience, the emotive nature of practice, and wide-ranging complexities associated with recruitment and retention. Disparity in the senior management and social worker relationship contributes to front line workers feeling of undervalued, despite sharing the ultimate aim of protecting and improving the welfare of children. The study indicates the need for careful consideration of how poor communication between senior managers and social workers, and lack of acknowledgement of the emotive nature of practice, feed negative perceptions of experience. The findings suggest that improvements in the relationship between senior managers and front line workers will help create an environment where problems associated with recruitment and retention can be addressed more constructively. Finally, this study identifies areas for further research and development around the recruitment and retention of social workers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: Helen Garner
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2014 13:18
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2015 13:42

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