More than £6m spent on agency staff for children’s services in Sunderland last year

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More than £6m was spent on agency staff for Sunderland’s children’s services last year.

Together for Children (TfC), the organisation formed to run the service for Sunderland City Council following 2015’s damning Ofsted report, had to pay for 167 temps during its first year in business, in 2017/18.

According to a Freedom of Information request, this included 97 social workers at a cost of £4,282,958 – an average  of £44,154.21 per social worker.

TfC said a “national shortage” of social workers meant recruitment remained a challenge and contributed to the need to employ agency staff.

But the need to find so much cash for workers is the result of the service being forced into a ‘bidding war’ with other local authorities due to political ‘incompetence’, according to the leader of Sunderland City Council’s Conservative opposition.

Reacting to the data, Coun Robert Oliver said: “I think the figures show that the problems with children’s services are very deep and it’s going to take a long time and a lot of money to turn the service around.

“Clearly there’s been very slow progress and at a time when it’s difficult to find social workers, Sunderland has found itself in a bidding war.”

According to the figures, the total amount paid to agency workers in 2017/18 was £6.14m.

This was £2.05m more than if they had been employed as full time staff.

TfC also claimed it had spent £1.5m less on temps than it had in 2016/17, while its number of permanent social work staff has increased by 17 per cent over the same period.

A statement from TfC said: “It is vital that we have enough social workers and support staff in place to deliver an effective and robust service.

“A national shortage of social workers creates challenges in recruitment and necessitates the continued use of agency workers, but despite the difficult circumstances we have made significant progress in growing the permanent workforce and reducing the amount spent on agency workers since taking over delivery of children’s services in April 2017.”

The total number of agency staff used is 167.

The average number of agency staff during the year was 51

Agency expenditure by role:

Director

£10,588

Interim Service Manager

£254,951

Team Manager

£600,449

Assistant Team Manager

£230,659

Senior Practitioner

£446,382

Social Worker

£4,282,958

Auditor – LAC

£36,850

Residential Officer

£23,094

Business Admin Asst

£148,717

Child & Family Workers

£7,713

Early Help Workers

£42,500

IRO

£52,858

SEN Case Officer

£4,875

Number of agency workers by role:

Director

1

Interim Service Manager

3

Team Manager

10

Assistant Team Manager

4

Senior Practitioner

10

Social Worker

97

Auditor – LAC

1

Residential Officer

8

Business Admin Asst

23

Child & Family Workers

3

Early Help Workers

4

IRO

2

SEN Case Officer

1

NB “this is the number of agency staff supplied, they may have been employed in a number of roles and this does not equate to vacant posts or gaps in service.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service