Departments can’t afford new staff

Social services departments are being forced to leave social worker
posts unfilled because they can’t afford to invest in new staff.

Early findings from the Association of Directors of Social Services
budget survey shows the average vacancy rate for children’s social
workers is 17 per cent this year.

However, in some areas it is as high as 60 per cent and in London
boroughs, where workforce pressures are most acute, the average is
25 per cent.

The survey reveals that councils are looking to agency social
workers to cover the shortfall, with the average social services
department projected to spend £740,000 on agency staff – an
increase of £40,000 from 2002-3. It now accounts for 13 per
cent of the average department’s projected field work spend.

Despite this, John Bolton, director of social services at Coventry,
said there was still a gap between the amount authorities are
spending on agency workers and the high vacancy rates of some

“A number of authorities use vacancy margins as a mechanism for
keeping costs down because of financial pressures,” the former
director of joint reviews explained.

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