The recruitment and retention of social workers continues to be a significant challenge for Tusla in 2019. Tusla is one of many employers of social workers in Ireland and it is competing with other employments that are often perceived as less challenging.
Tusla’s new Strategic Workforce Planning Model will be accompanied by a renewed focus on retention of social workers and other key staff. This approach should ensure better outcomes for children and for Tusla’s recruitment work.
In 2019, Tusla Recruit, its dedicated in-house recruitment function, has managed 16 social work specific campaigns such as:
- the Social Work Graduate Programme designed to recruit new graduates,
- the rolling campaign for Professionally Qualified Social Workers (PQSW),
- Social Work Team Lead,
- Senior Social Work Practitioner, and
- Principal Social Worker.
These campaigns have attracted approximately 550 applications from internal and external applicants to date. As at 31st May, 2019, Tusla was ahead of its 2019 social work recruitment schedule, with 114 new starter social workers appointed.
59 social workers resigned or retired during the same period, resulting in a net gain of 63 whole time equivalent social workers since the start of 2019.
In addition to Tusla’s Social Work Graduate Programme and its annual calendar of college campus visits, Tusla held its first Social Work Recruitment Open Day on the 14th of June. The Open Day provided an opportunity for potential applicants to learn about a career with Tusla from experienced frontline staff.
I also welcome the news that Tusla Recruit expects to launch online interviews from autumn 2019 to accommodate applicants, in particular those who may be abroad.
I understand Tusla has also established a Retention Steering Group to plan and implement an integrated approach to retention throughout the organisation via Tusla’s Health and Wellbeing and Employee Assistance Programme. The Group will:
- review current retention initiatives;
- identify opportunities and barriers to successfully retaining talent;
- act upon the findings of the Tusla's Staff Retention Survey;
- harness insights and ideas from across the organisation to incorporate into policies and working practices; and
- consider successful initiatives developed by other Agencies.
The work of the Retention Steering Group will be an important input for the implementation of Tusla’s Strategic Workforce Planning Model. I note that the turnover rate for social workers at 31 May, 2019 is 7.17% compared to 8.44% for the same period in 2018. Hopefully this is an indication that Tusla is already reaping benefits from its actions in this area.
My Department has also taken the initiative to establish the Social Work Education Group, which is intended to provide a forum for Tusla and other stakeholders to raise issues and act upon possible actions to influence the future supply of social workers.
The first priority identified by the Group is the streamlining of student placements and I am pleased to confirm work has commenced on this.