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Social workers’ guide to Birmingham: designer shops, leafy suburbs, golf and the best curry

Social workers’ guide to Birmingham: designer shops, leafy suburbs, golf and the best curry

🕔22.Jan 2015

You won’t find a better curry anywhere in the UK, so states Peter Hay, the city council’s strategic director for people in a six-minute promotional video to attract social workers to Birmingham.

Mr Hay embarks on a colourful and fast-paced tour of the best that Birmingham has to offer, with great emphasis on the city centre, its shops and restaurants, the Bullring, Selfridge’s,  Louis Vuitton, Brindleyplace, the ICC and the “leafy suburbs” of Harborne and Sutton Coldfield.

There’s a nod to the Jewellery Quarter, the soon to open John Lewis store at Grand Central which will be the largest outside of London and, of course, the annual Frankfurt market which is described as a great place to begin Christmas shopping.

Birmingham is very big on culture, which is a cue for Gay Pride, the St Patrick’s Day Parade and the Library of Birmingham although the LoB’s financial difficulties and prospective reduced opening hours are, unsurprisingly, not part of the script.

The “world famous” Belfry golf course and hotel gets a mention, even though it is not actually in Birmingham, as does the proximity of the Black Country and the Peak District where a relaxing walk in the countryside or invigorating bike ride may be taken.

Six million trees, miles of canals and 8,000 acres of open spaces make Birmingham one of the greenest cities in the country.

Birmingham’s diversity is promoted with a reminder that 30 per cent of the population is from an ethnic minority background, which is reflected in some great restaurants and the Balti Triangle.

As for Michelin starred restaurants, we’ve got more than anywhere else outside of London, and if that’s not your scene then how about some al fresco canal-side dining at Brindleyplace?

There are, though, some claims in Mr Hay’s biopic that might not strictly stand up to scrutiny.

Potential social workers are told they can expect an easy commute to work “wherever you live”, a statement that sits uncomfortably with Birmingham’s sorry record for traffic chaos, occasional gridlock and perennial motorway repairs.

Even so, Mr Hay is confident that being “one of the best connected cities in the UK” at the heart of the motorway network means Brummies can be in a number of major cities within hours.

Average house prices in Birmingham range from £134,000 to £152,000, it is claimed. However, the Nationwide building society put the average at £181,440 last year. Possibly Mr Hay is referring to terraced houses, but clearly not in Sutton Coldfield.

The big question about the Hay travelogue is whether it will work. Will it persuade graduates to come to Birmingham, embark on a social work career and, crucially, to stay here?

It’s actually not been difficult for the council to recruit social workers. The problem is they tend not to stay for very long before moving on. Often over the course of a year more social work staff leave the council than can be recruited.

Just over a quarter of the social work posts in children’s social services are vacant. Almost a fifth of social workers are provided by agencies, pushing up wage costs.

Six years in Government special measures, labelled inadequate and failing, hasn’t done much for the good name of children’s social care in Birmingham. And even though the council is ploughing in more than £9 million additional funding this year, it remains difficult to retain staff.

The film is the latest initiative in a promotional and recruitment campaign bolstered by a £400,000 advertising budget. Social workers are being offered additional holidays, subsidised housing and enhanced training packages to attract them to Birmingham.

Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, said: “Birmingham is an incredible city to live and work in, and our children need more fantastic social workers to come and make their homes and careers here.

“It’s important that qualified social workers have a clear career path; there is no point recruiting excellent candidates only for them to leave within a few years. To that end we are ensuring that for anyone who stays with us two or more years, and meets the grade, can progress from social worker role to senior social worker.

“We will also replenish the talent pool at social worker level which will increase the workforce capacity where it is needed and enable manageable caseloads.

“I think the advert is really powerful and will attract just the sort of social workers who want to take that ‘bold step’. And the video shows just what a wonderful city Birmingham is to call home and we will offer them every support in achieving a move here.”

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