No 'silver bullet' to ending Notts social care recruitment crisis

Apprenticeships and more partnerships with universities could be needed to plug Nottinghamshire Council’s ongoing staff shortage in adult social care.
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This is according to a leading service director who has warned there is no ‘silver bullet’ to solving recruitment issues in the sector.

The authority’s adult social care and public health committee met to review the department’s ongoing financial situation, which shows a £2.31 million underspend.

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The ‘main driver’ of this, councillors heard, is unspent staffing costs due to difficulties in filling vacancies.

Nottinghamshire Council's County Hall headquarters in West Bridgford.Nottinghamshire Council's County Hall headquarters in West Bridgford.
Nottinghamshire Council's County Hall headquarters in West Bridgford.

Earlier this year, the committee approved the creation of 55.5 temporary full-time equivalent social care posts.

It was hoped the posts would address the impact of ‘delayed and new demand due to Covid-19’.

However, council documents state the recruitment process has been ‘challenging’, with the authority only managing to fill 21 out of the 55.5 vacancies.

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A separate recruitment drive, also aiming to employ a further 55.5 FTE posts, has managed to fill just 13 posts.

Documents add the social care workforce shortage is being felt across the sector, with local authorities and independent agencies all struggling to fill vacancies.

But the council is now looking into ways to plug these holes.

Kashif Ahmed, service director for integrated strategic commissioning and service improvement, said work is ongoing to tackle the shortage, including building partnerships with universities.

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He says the numbers recruited in the current drive are ‘pretty good’, given the context of a national staff shortage, but warned there is not a hard and fast solution to the issue.

He said: “Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet or a magic one to solve the workforce shortage.

“It is challenging across the board, in particular around qualified staff, social workers, occupational therapists and community care officers.

“It’s going to require a long-term, strategic plan and we are looking at apprenticeships and having more conversations and partnerships with universities.

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“The reality is we need a much greater increase of people coming through the pipeline, because demand currently is high.

“We need to increase all mechanisms we’ve got around recruitment. It is challenging.”

The shortages come as healthcare services in Nottinghamshire face ‘unprecedented demand’.

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It follows the emergence of the Omicron Covid variant in what many expect to be one of the most challenging winters for health and social care services.

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Melanie Brooks, corporate director of adult social care, said the department is in ‘emergency crisis response’ and suspending ‘business as usual’, in order to provide ‘critical services’ only.

Councillors raised concerns over staff shortages and the impact moving forwards.

Coun Paul Henshaw, who represents Mansfield West, said: “If we don’t do something, this problem will be continually exacerbated and it seems to me it’s only going to get worse.”

Coun Chris Barnfather, who represents Newstead, said: “It’s always going to be difficult to recruit staff for social care when you can go to Amazon and be paid considerably more per hour stacking shelves, than for looking after more vulnerable members of society.”

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Mr Ahmed told councillors the department has ‘imminent actions’ it will take, including looking into volunteering and redeploying staff not currently working ‘on the frontline’.

He said: “This will support some of the short-term challenges we have got at the moment.”

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