London, Oct 7 (UNI) Britain is planning to outsource social workers from other countries due to a nationwide shortage of suitable staff to take care of children.
Some of the most vulnerable children in Britain are at risk because of unavailibility of social workers, the co-president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services warned.
In some parts of the country, the shortage is so bad that local authorities have started paying for officials to travel abroad to find experienced staff. Other councils have resorted to paying new employees 'golden hellos' and awarding bursaries to undergraduates to encourage them to complete their social work degrees.
''There is an overall shortage of qualified children's social workers across Britain and that shortage is particularly felt in the most complex of cases, involving the care of children in care, children with severe disabilities and those working in child protection,'' Director of children's services at Hampshire county council John Coughlan was quoted as saying by the Observer.
There is no central record of the level of shortages, but Mr Coughlan said the problem is widespread. He pointed to the situation in Birmingham as representative of urban areas across the country.
The city still had 16 vacancies despite extensive efforts to fill them.
In an attempt to outsource the social workers, the council recently sent three members of staff to America to interview qualified candidates.
Committee members met again last week to discuss recruiting and retaining staff. ''We are considering funding undergraduates through their entire course, instead of just supporting them in their final year,'' Mr Coughlan said.
Mr Coughlan feared that high staff turnover and low recruitment are due to the high emotional stress of the job, as well as low salaries.
This criticism centres on cases where social workers have failed to protect children in their care. There has been at least one report on the death of a child whose killers were known to social services in every year since 1997.
''I have heard of local authorities recruiting from Eastern Europe, America, New Zealand, Australia and Canada,' Mr Coughlan said.
''These people have to be retrained, but there's an additional problem in the case of Eastern Europe. The last thing we want is to create a situation where other countries no longer have enough workers to care for their children, because those people have been encouraged to come to Britain,'' he said.