£686,000 of States of Jersey funding has been invested into helping Channel Islanders train as social workers, opening up a new option that Guernsey's Health & Social Care Committee said could "complement current local arrangements going forward".
The move has been made by Jersey in a bid to plug the skills gap posing a threat to the welfare of the islands' most vulnerable children and adults.
Subject to approval from the Jersey Health and Care Professions Council, between 12 and 20 people from both islands will be able to undertake a BA Social Work degree in conjunction with the University of Sussex from September 2019.
Nicola Gallienne, Head of Children and Family Community Services in Guernsey, said: "Guernsey is aware of the States of Jersey plans to develop an on island program to train social workers. Indeed, the Social Work Lecturer at the Institute of Health and Social Care Studies in Guernsey has been in regular contact with Jersey colleagues and Highland’s College about this venture.
"Guernsey is not involved or financially contributing to this programme but the Jersey degree may be a training option for Guernsey students who may wish to complete their social work training once the course is on offer."
Currently, Children and Family Community Services enable staff to complete a social work degree while being employed. This is done through the Open University or a centre in Aberdeen, and allows five social workers to train at any given time.
"It might be that the option of training in Jersey could complement current local arrangements going forward," Ms Gallienne added.
Pictured: Highlands College, Jersey, where the training will be held
The actual plan in Jersey comes after the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry last year warned about the high turnover of social workers on the island and the problem it posed for the island’s youth.
That warning was repeated on the report’s anniversary by Children’s Commissioner Deborah McMillan, who said that some young people had “had 10, 11 or 12 social workers.”
The problem, Children’s Services officials said, was a lack of experienced or appropriately trained local people, which led them to launch a £16,000 recruitment drive for 18 more social workers using UK media last year.
Now the States have announced this home-grown solution to ending the island’s reliance on temporary and agency staff.
Overall, the States of Jersey are investing £686,000 into the scheme. They say the money will fund recruiting for, developing and delivering the course within the next four years.
Jersey Education Minister Senator Tracey Vallois described the course as a “significant investment by the Jersey government that will ensure that by 2022 Jersey will have its own highly skilled on-island social work training unit.”
She added: “This investment in training will significantly reduce the costs of hiring temporary and agency staff in the future and will hopefully provide continuity in care also.
“We remain fully committed to not only taking on the recommendations of the IJCI, but ensuring that Jersey’s children and young people receive appropriate help and support throughout their lives. Having a stable and highly skilled workforce of social workers is crucial as we seek to protect the welfare of our most vulnerable children and young people in Jersey. The course is for all social workers including those who choose to work with vulnerable adults.”
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