Staff restructure behind £2.2m spent on agency social workers in Suffolk, says county council

Suffolk County Council spent �2.2m on agency social carers last year, a Freedom of Information reque

Suffolk County Council spent �2.2m on agency social carers last year, a Freedom of Information request has revealed Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: ARCHANT

Social care chiefs in Suffolk have said that “staff restructures” are behind a £2.2million spend on agency social workers last year.

Figures published under Freedom of Information laws revealed that Suffolk County Council spent £2,228,603 in 2017/18 on temporary social workers.

As of April this year, there were 23 temps working in children’s services social work roles with a further nine in adult services positions.

But the county council said that a restructure of its staff was behind the seven-figure sum, with work having been underway on helping recruit and retain staff.

Councillor Beccy Hopfensperger, cabinet member for adult social care at the county council said: “We endeavour to only use agency staff within adult social care in exceptional conditions.

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“This year’s agency spend is down to staff restructure. While we re-examined the roles of more than 900 members of staff we paid for nine agency staff to ensure the care given to our customers was continuous and to the highest standard.”

Gordon Jones cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills said that locum costs had fallen by 11% since 2013, while full time vacancies had fallen from 16 to six in one year.

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He added: “We are not complacent in this attempt and are aware we still have a way to go, but we are committed to driving down the use of agency staff and recruiting highly-capable and dedicated care staff and the results from our current efforts are extremely positive.”

To help turn around recruitment, an improved admissions process, guaranteed offer of two placements and tie up with the university’s social work degree apprenticeship have all been put in place.

Helen Armitage, spokeswoman for health and adult care for the opposition Labour group, said: “Whilst it is welcome that Suffolk County Council is spending money to support those who need a social worker, it is of huge concern that, despite spending more than most other local authorities, the case load of our overworked and highly dedicated social workers in Suffolk continues to grow.

“At last week’s cabinet meeting the Conservatives admitted that they had not managed to get the overall caseload for individual social workers down.

“It is a fact that the number of cases a social worker maintains has a direct impact on the support they can offer.

“This administration needs to do more to decrease the number of cases one social worker has to deal with in order to ensure the best outcome for all concerned.”

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