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.