Digi World Mag
Spending on children's social workers agencies is rising, suggests a study.

According to digiworldmag News, UK councils’ agency employee spending has climbed substantially in five years due to a shortage of children’s social workers.

According to data from 125 of 212 councils, expenditures increased by about forty percent.

In England, council leaders are concerned that spending more on agency employees will reduce the overall budget for children’s services.

Early in the new year, the Department of Education will outline its plans for children’s social work.

According to John Gregg, director of children’s services in Coventry, the need for assistance from children and families is growing, yet it is challenging to hire enough permanent social workers.

Coventry has established a social work academy to encourage and support newly-qualified social workers, while the national vacancy rate is severe.

The vacancy rate in England increased to 16.7% in 2021, equating to 6,500 vacant positions and the highest percentage since 2017.

The truth, according to Mr. Gregg, is that if we spend more money on vulnerable children, agency personnel, and children’s services rather than a wide range of child services, then children will receive a lesser service.

I also believe that other parts of council service delivery were likely affected.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, digiworldmag contacted all 212 councils in the United Kingdom, and 125 responded.

By early 2022, these local authorities spent £227m on temporary personnel working with vulnerable children, up from £164.5m in 2017.

The increase was greatest in England, from over £153 million in 2017 to nearly £213 million in 2020.

The rate of increase was 36% in Scotland, 22% in Northern Ireland, and 11% in Wales.

However, the analysis also indicated that councils spend significantly different amounts on agency workers, with some spending less than they did five years ago.

The surge in the usage of expensive agency employees coincides with rising budgetary pressures in children’s social care.

The Local Government Association, which represents English councils, reported last year that eight in 10 councils were overspending on children’s social care due to increased numbers of vulnerable youngsters.

“Turnover in the labor force”

Steve Crocker, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, reports that councils rely on agencies more and more.

Mr. Crocker said full-time workers are leaving because wages are not keeping up with inflation and agencies provide greater pay and more flexibility.

“As a result, I have never in my career witnessed such a high percentage of staff turnover. Collective efforts to limit agency compensation have failed, and expenditures are soaring “he claimed.

Richard Devine, a consultant social worker with more than a decade of experience in municipal child protection services, acknowledges that agency personnel can be competent, but he is concerned that having a temporary social worker can exacerbate families’ feelings of instability.

He said, “For at least a few months, I’ve had to build trusting relationships with children and their families to get a deeper understanding of what’s going on with them and their families.”

I believe that agency social workers are frequently unable to do so due to the nature of their employment.

An ‘expensive’ practice

In May 2022, a comprehensive assessment of children’s services recommended reducing the number of organizations that offer social workers.

The author Josh MacAlister describes the technique as “expensive” and as “counterproductive to establishing stable professional connections with children and families.”

Instead, he suggested using regional staff banks more.

The social work agency association says councils turn to agencies because services are stretched due to more children needing protection.

According to Kate Shoesmith, deputy chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, social workers are under immense pressure.

Too many people, according to her, believe that leaving their jobs and joining an agency is the only way to manage their caseloads and advance their careers.

The Department for Education acknowledges the need to recruit, retain, and train children and family social workers.

In response to their crucial role in protecting and assisting vulnerable children, an official said, “There are more child and family social workers than ever before, and we are investing over £50 million per year to support councils in hiring and retaining even more.”


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