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£3,000 ‘golden hello’ payment plan for Birmingham social workers hits a glitch

£3,000 ‘golden hello’ payment plan for Birmingham social workers hits a glitch

🕔28.Jan 2014

A plan to make £3,000 ‘golden hello’ payments to social workers will have to be revised after Birmingham city council’s equalities director said the idea hadn’t been properly thought through.

Under a scheme due to be introduced in April qualified social work recruits with at least three years’ experience are due to receive the lump sum payment when they join the council.

In addition, some social workers currently at the council will continue to be paid a ‘market supplement’ uplift to their wages worth £2,400 a year.

The aim is to give social work professionals a financial incentive to choose a career in Birmingham, where the council’s children’s social services department remains in special measures after being declared inadequate by Ofsted.

But the scheme was the subject of criticism at an Employment and Human Resources Committee meeting after it emerged that not all social workers will qualify for cash rewards and that some members of staff currently receiving bonuses will have the payments withdrawn.

Those employed in the adoption and fostering unit and looking after young adults leaving care stand to lose their market supplement payments because they work in areas where it is easy to find sufficient candidates for jobs, assistant HR director Kay Child confirmed.

Ms Child explained: “Fostering and adoption is a less stressful working environment. We have to give social workers an incentive to remain where they are rather than take up vacancies in fostering and adoption.”

Ms Child added that the golden hello payment system would be kept under annual review and could be withdrawn in future if recruitment of social workers was no longer a problem. Anyone leaving the council within three years of receiving the £3,000 payment would have to return the money on a pro rata basis, she confirmed.

Labour councillor Barry Bowles warned that the incentive scheme might backfire and cause resentment among social workers excluded from the payments. There was a danger of creating a “ghetto” of employees who did not get the additional money, he added.

The sharpest criticism came from council equalities director Dr Mushuq Ally, who pointed out that HR officials had not conducted an equalities impact assessment to determine the effect that incentive payments would have on all staff.

Dr Ally said councillors could not have “confidence or reassurance” in the way that the special cash payments for social workers had been determined. “There is no methodology to this”, Dr Ally added.

Birmingham has struggled for years to recruit its full complement of social workers, often relying on hiring expensive agency staff to fill the gap. Since the start of 2013 the council has run four recruitment campaigns which resulted in 155 conditional offers of employment.

Neighbouring councils including Sandwell, Walsall, Telford and Solihull pay higher salaries to social workers than Birmingham. Sandwell offers a £5,000 golden hello for team leaders and has taken to “cold calling” existing Birmingham staff urging them to move jobs, according to Ms Child.

HR officials were ordered to return to the committee with a completed equalities impact assessment and revised proposals before any of the incentives could be put in place.

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