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Council forced to pay agencies £90,000 a year for social work team managers

Council forced to pay agencies £90,000 a year for social work team managers

🕔11.Mar 2015

Agencies providing senior social workers for Birmingham city council are being paid at the rate of up to £90,000 a year per employee, Chamberlain Files can reveal.

The council is planning to extend a system of enhanced salaries in an effort to fill scores of vacant posts in the child protection unit.

An agency providing a social work team manager will be paid £43.50 an hour – equivalent to £1,740 for five days and just under £7,000 for four weeks. That works out to £90,480 for 52 weeks.

A social worker with two years post-qualifying experience will be paid at the rate of £33.41 an hour, which is £1,336 a week or £69,000 for 52 weeks.

Agencies typically take between seven and 12 per cent, leaving the remainder for the social workers.

The council says it has to offer enhanced rates to be competitive with other local authorities.

At the end of January 2015 there were 161 vacant permanent child protection social work posts covering grade 4 and grade 5 social worker posts and team manager positions at Birmingham city council.

The 161 vacant posts represent a third of the total workforce of 485 front line social work posts.

A cabinet report sets out the difficulties the council is facing: “Recruitment of a permanent social worker workforce is a top priority for the Directorate and strenuous efforts to recruit permanent staff have continued, but recruitment of permanent experienced social workers has proved very challenging.

“The demand nationally and regionally for experienced workers who will work permanently for a Local Authority is considerably higher than the number of workers available and this results in the agency market being very buoyant and competitive.

“Given the high vacancy rate it remains critical to the improvement agenda to maintain sufficient agency social workers within the service until the numbers of permanent employees have increased.

“The increase in agency social worker rates approved by Cabinet on 21 October 2013, and extended on the 17th March, 2014 enabled Birmingham City Council to offer parity with other local authorities in the region and this has had a positive effect on agency recruitment.”

In October, 2013 there were 71 agency social workers, which increased by the end of March, 2014 to 96 agency workers and then to 161 by the end of January 2015.

The maximum cost to the council of the enhanced rates for 2015-16 will be £1.6 million.

Birmingham’s child protection services have been under a notice to improve from the Department for Education since 2009. Part of the requirement of the improvement notice is to ensure that the council has adequate staffing for frontline child protection services.

The cabinet report continues: “Although there has been some improvement in the service it continues in a fragile state. A major risk to the improvement is a lack of sufficiently skilled social care staff to deliver frontline services.”

Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, said:

Great social workers make a huge difference to children’s lives and are the key to improving our services.

Our recruitment strategy is already bearing fruit with 98 new starters coming here between March and December last year. Many of our internal staff are also moving up the career ladder here to take on more responsibility and increase their contribution.

However, we still need agency staff to ensure everyone has manageable case loads, of course this means paying them a rate that compares favourably with other West Midlands authorities.

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