Cardiff Council has defended its decision to scrap a recruitment incentive for children’s social workers, after an opposition councillor branded the move ‘irresponsible and short-sighted’.
The decision to cut the annual £1,500 market supplement payment from social workers’ salaries was taken in February last year, but it has come under the spotlight again after Conservative councillor for Llanishen, Andrew Graham, publicly voiced concerns.
Graham told Welsh news site, Wales Online, he hoped the decision would not ‘decrease the city’s ability to look after its most vulnerable people’ after the Labour council had chosen to ‘hit child protection teams’.
But cabinet member for early years, children and families, Sue Lent, stood by the decision.
“I understand that some staff are unhappy but I remain of the view that it is the right decision,” she said. “It is clear the market supplement is inequitable in relation to the many social workers in the service who have never received it, some of whom do the same job in the same service area as those who have received it.”
“No councillors raised any objections or concerns at the time,” she added.
The market supplement payment was introduced in 2001 to tackle recruitment issues within the council’s child protection service.
Council minutes from February last year show the children and young people scrutiny committee was advised the supplement had only been intended as a temporary measure, was not particularly effective and was inequitable. The director for children’s services told members he would not recommend its reinstatement.
The decision to remove the payment was made by the full council later that month.
Dominic MacAskill, head of local government for UNISON Cymru Wales, said he hoped, for the sake of the vulnerable children of Cardiff, the council had done its homework.
“The council will soon learn whether the market supplement was necessary if it finds that staff turnover in child protection increases and they are unable to recruit,” he said.
“Market supplements used to be very common in social work in order to attract and retain social workers in hard to recruit areas; but they are only ever a temporary fix and can be withdrawn at any time,” he added.
“UNISON’s argument has always been for all-Wales career grades for social workers that properly reward qualification, skills and experience and not for the unsettling leap frogging approach that market supplements generate when operated by councils.”