Council opens up voluntary redundancy scheme to social workers

Derby Council says it has no option but to offer voluntary redundancy to frontline staff, in the hope this will avoid the need for compulsory lay offs next year.

Derby Council has opened up a third round of voluntary redundancies for staff and made the option available to social workers for the first time.

The council said it had to find a further £25m worth of savings on top of the £66m it has already slashed from its budget over the past two years. The council claimed it was facing disproportionately higher levels of cuts from central government compared to neighbouring authorities.

Adam Wilkinson, chief executive of the council, said he hoped that enough voluntary redundancies would be achieved before the end of this year to avoid the need for compulsory redundancies next year.

However, local Unison branch secretary Nicole Berrisford said more than 1,000 employees had already left the council and more than 300 redundancies were expected from the latest round.

“We’re very concerned about the loss of knowledge and experience from frontline teams,” said Berrisford. “The other redundancy schemes were not open to social workers before, because it’s a frontline service, but this one is – and I do believe quite a few social workers will take it.

“The obvious concern is the pressure it will create on remaining team members when social workers in this area are already burdened with very heavy and complex caseloads.”

Berrisford said she expected more members would face capability issues as they failed to reach performance targets because of the high stress and impossible caseloads.

Although the council is appealing to central government over the level of cuts, Berrisford said the council could be forced to go down a commissioning only route.

“Areas such as fostering and adoption could be outsourced to the private or charitable sector, which we would have a lot of concerns about. Whatever happens, it’s clear social workers in Derby are going to be subject to restructuring and we don’t yet know what the impact of that may be.”

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