Nearly one-third of social work posts at Haringey Council’s children’s services are filled by agency staff, according to figures obtained by Community Care.
The statistics, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that on 31 January 2009 agency staff filled 62 of 204 children and families social work posts and nine were vacant.
The 4% vacancy rate compares with average social work vacancies of 10% in England in recent years. Haringey confirmed that the agency rate had remained the same since January.
The news came as the Unison branch at Haringey Council warned that the council’s safeguarding action plan, drawn up in response to last year’s damning joint area review, will depend on a strong recruitment drive.
The council, which submitted the plan to children’s secretary Ed Balls last month, said it needed to recruit “at least 20 plus” permanent social workers to reduce reliance on agency staff.
However, Unison branch secretary Sean Fox warned that the media coverage after the Baby P case could hamper the council’s recruitment efforts.
“There needs to be a change in attitudes and perceptions of the work carried out,” he said. “Real change must be to deal with burn-out, stress and other issues that employees feel.”
The council said it was developing an employment offer that would include suitable accommodation, IT support, and an appropriate pay package.
Haringey said £4.2m has been earmarked for the plan in its 2009-10 budget, and that the Department for Children, Schools and Families had already provided “initial resources” for implementation and that negotiations on further funding were continuing.
Fox added that the measures outlined in the council’s safeguarding action plan were “similar” to those introduced after Victoria Climbié’s death in 2000, when the council increased spending on children’s services and embarked on a major recruitment drive.
Post Laming reforms
When Lord Laming’s inquiry was published in 2003, Community Care reported that Haringey’s children and families service was “unrecognisable” compared with three years earlier.
Haringey had reduced vacancies in children’s services from 30-40% to 5% from 1999-2000 to 2002-3, with top social work salaries rising from £25,000 to £33,500 a year over the same period.
The council, rated as inadequate for children’s services in its 2008 annual performance assessment, is aiming to receive a satisfactory rating this year and be outstanding by 2012.
• Community Care article on improvements in Haringey from January 2003