Somerset steps up to social work recruitment challenge

Somerset County Council is bidding for funding for a follow-up to its successful initiative to train children’s social workers.

In January 2017, the Council will find out if central government has supported its bid to offer the Step Up to Social Work Programme for the second time.

The programme encourages anyone with experience of working with children and young people to train for social work. So far it has supported 28 social work trainees across a south west regional partnership of six local authorities.

Eight of the original trainees have been based in Somerset, supporting the County Council’s ambition and the national challenge to recruit high calibre, qualified social workers. If the new bid is successful, the number of trainees will increase to 66 for the newly expanded south west partnership.

The original trainees are set to become fully-fledged social workers in the spring. One of the trainees has written a number of blogs about her experience and said: “The support I have been offered by the team and management has been fantastic, as has the range of work I have been able to get involved with. This includes assessments, direct work, chairing meetings, auditing case work and more.

“The programme attracted graduates with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. It’s helpful to talk things through with the other Step Up students, and in Somerset we have a regular peer supervision group. One of the best resources is the informal Facebook group we have formed which gives us all quick access to a wide range of information and resources through sharing or posting questions.”

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “A recent, positive monitoring report from Ofsted recognises the progress we have made and continue to make.

In Somerset, we offer a hugely rewarding career in children’s social care. Our strategy to meet the national shortage of social workers involves focusing both on the retention of the high quality social workers who are already working in Somerset, and on growing our own through various learning and development opportunities.

“I’m proud that the first group of Step Up students are reaching the end of their on-the-job training and that from spring 2017 they will be starting their careers, helping us to continue improving the services we provide to vulnerable children and young people.”

The Department for Education is encouraging people to register their interest for the next intake. Click here to register your interest.

You can read the Step Up to Social Work blogs and others by visiting

The Step Up to Social Work programme supports national and local Children’s Social Care recruitment and retention priorities. Somerset County Council is currently leading a consortium of six local authorities across the South West, which includes Bath and North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council, Swindon Borough Council and Gloucestershire County Council. If the bid under consideration by the DfE is successful, this consortium will be joined by five further local authorities: Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council, Bristol City Council, Devon County Council and Cornwall County Council.