Tusla’s Business Plan for 2019 has identified an initial gross recruitment target of 102 Social Care Workers to cover new posts and attrition. Tusla projects that this recruitment may eventually result in an increase in Tusla’s social care workers of 57 once attrition and backfilling is taken into account.
Tusla has informed me that it has a rolling campaign for social care workers. In addition, Tusla has developed other initiatives, such as bespoke campaigns for social care workers, to support its on-going recruitment drive in the more difficult to fill Special Care settings.
Tusla has advised that at 31 March, 2019 there were 1,152 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) social care workers in Tusla, which represents 29% of its overall workforce (3955 WTE). In addition, Tusla currently engages 210 agency social care workers to ensure continuity of service.
Recruitment of social care workers is particularly challenging in Special Care settings. For example, at the end of 2018, Tusla had appointed 131 new social care workers, however, 70 social care workers either left or retired from the organisation during the same period. Tusla has identified that there are approximately 1,000 social care graduates per year, however, a much smaller sub-group is willing to work in the particularly challenging environment of Special Care. This challenge is further compounded as Tusla is competing with the HSE, Oberstown Children Detention Campus, the voluntary and private sector to recruit from this subgroup.
I am aware that Tusla is exploring a number of measures to address the challenges in Special Care, such as increasing the potential talent pool by widening the eligible skills and experience considered for the role, improving the work environment and implementing a new model of care. Tusla has also commenced a stability programme to appoint in excess of 25 agency social care workers on temporary three year contracts into identified posts within the service.
At the same time, Tusla has indicated that a key focus for the Agency is the continued development of initiatives to support the retention of the talent, capability and institutional knowledge that already exists within the Agency. A Retention Steering Group has been established by Tusla to plan and implement an integrated approach throughout the organisation and its work is being coordinated through Tusla’s Health and Wellbeing and Employee Assistance service. In this context, Tusla has confirmed that the turnover rate for social care workers has fallen from 4.6% in 2017 to 3.52% in 2018 and this may be attributed to the recent work that Tusla has undertaken to address retention issues.
Tusla has developed its Strategic Workforce Planning Model – Phase 1 Multidisciplinary teams which will be rolled out by a Strategic Workforce Implementation Plan 2019-2020 and which encompasses capability and capacity planning. It is my expectation that this will chart the way forward in terms of a realistic approach to the personnel deficits being experienced by Tusla. Tusla has established a Steering Group, and also intends to establish Working Groups, to oversee and drive the implementation of the Strategic Workforce Planning Model and I welcome this approach.
I also welcome the fact that the Retention Steering Group will feed into the Strategic Workforce Planning Model, focusing on staff wellbeing by assessing workplace stressors, employee psychological wellbeing and critical incident exposure in the workplace.
With regard to HR, my Department is primarily focused on funding, governance and support of Tusla however, my officials are actively engaging and supporting Tusla and other stakeholders with regard to addressing issues relating to the supply, recruitment and retention of social workers and social care workers.