To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to assist in the recruitment of local authority social workers.
It is for local authorities themselves, as employers, to take whatever steps are appropriate to recruit the staff whom they need.
Did the Minister hear the Prime Minister praising the work of child helplines the other day, when she said that we must make sure that enough telephones are provided and that sufficient volunteers are available to man them? Is not it a little hypocritical of the Prime Minister to make that remark when the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work states that an extra 800 social workers need to be trained each year to maintain the present level of services?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was praising the work of Childline, which uses volunteers and provides an excellent service. We pay £300,000 towards the cost of that service. The CCETSW has responsibility for training, and we have substantially increased its funding. There are significantly more people—about 4·5 per cent. more—joining the profession each year than leaving it. Of course, we continue to have discussions with employers and with the CCETSW to ensure that there is an adequate supply of social workers to undertake important tasks, in addition to the volunteers to whom the hon. Gentleman referred.
Does my hon. Friend agree that social services recruits not only need university degrees or to be armed with diplomas in humanities but should be streetwise? Would not it be a good idea to recruit mothers whose children have grown up—and perhaps even younger grandmothers—because such women have raised families, are streetwise, and are not as green as grass?
I entirely support my hon. Friend. In my view, streetwise grandmothers are precisely the people who should be undertaking work with young families. The work that we do in training social workers ensures broad entry. It is not the case that it is only 18 or 19-year-old undergraduates whom we want to attract. We seek to recruit also the mature woman who has experience. I shall certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's words when I next meet those responsible.