Birmingham votes on ‘enhanced’ pay for agency social workers

The troubled council has proposed sticking with a higher rate for agency social workers after struggling with recruitment

Photo: Lena Vasiljeva

Birmingham council has voted today on whether to continue paying an enhanced rate to temporary social workers, after making a commitment to cap agency pay as of January this year.

The enhanced rate of almost £9 an hour extra for social workers was first introduced in October 2013 in response to high vacancy rates and difficulty recruiting permanent social workers.

Vacancy rates now stand at 127 or 33% of the total workforce, compared with the 108 vacancies reported in September 2013. Additional  investment in 44 new social work posts may partly contribute to this figure.

The proposal comes following an agreement made in December by all 14 West Midlands councils to control agency spending in the region by imposing a pay cap on temporary social workers.

At the time, head of HR for Warwickshire council Sue Evans told The Times newspaper West Midlands councils had agreed on set rates of £22.50 an hour for a social worker, £24.00 for a senior social worker and £35.75 an hour for a team manager, exclusive of agency costs.

Birmingham will be paying its agencies £33.40 an hour for a social worker, £39.89 for a senior social worker and £43.50 for a team manager including an average agency fee of 9% .

This means a social worker will be paid around £9 an hour more than originally agreed by the regional consortium.

But the council said these rates were in line with the regional agreement.

Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, said: “Our recruitment strategy is already bearing fruit with 98 new starters coming here between March and December last year. Many of our internal staff are also moving up the career ladder here to take on more responsibility and increase their contribution.

“However, we still need agency staff to ensure everyone has manageable case loads, of course this means paying them a rate that compares favourably with other West Midlands authorities.”

The report that will be presented to the cabinet this afternoon stated recruiting permanent social workers was a top priority, but maintaining enough agency workers to fill the gap in the meantime remained critical.

The higher rates of pay for agency workers will cost the council up to £1.6m in the year 2015/16.

More from Community Care

One Response to Birmingham votes on ‘enhanced’ pay for agency social workers

  1. Steve Stuart March 17, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    I am not sure that this story is in the least bit helpful.

    Have you sought any kind of confirmation or comment from Birmingham in relation to this? Or to the regional body responsible for the work ont he protocol? Or indeed to the person who gave the quote back in January?

    I would suggest that caps were introduced alongside these enhanced rates in January for new palcements. This extension probably allows for the continuation of existing placements to continue compiantly and in line with procurement protocols.

    It is an important story. The usage is probably high and the costs too. But it should not be used to undermine the actions of other authoritiies or regional initiatives. Certainly not without at least trying to find out whethter there is any basis in fact behind the insinuation.