West Berkshire has offered a record £15k bonus to children’s social workers who stay with the council for more than three years, following an inadequate Ofsted judgement.
Rachael Wardell, director of both children’s and adults’ services, said the unprecedented bonus was an attempt to avoid a “price war” with neighbouring authorities.
“We could have fuelled pay inflation by trying to raise our upfront salary to match some of our competitors, or we could do something a bit more imaginative,” she said.
West Berkshire is also offering three months’ paid sabbatical to social workers who have been with the council for more than three years, as well as clinical supervision and free parking.
The council is the lowest paying in Berkshire. Wardell said higher basic salaries were considered but she concluded a bonus was tied more strongly to the desired outcome of attracting social workers who are committed to building relationships with children and families.
“What we knew was, if your basic pay offer goes up, other authorities match it and that doesn’t have a stabilising effect. It just spirals out of control.”
She added that a stable workforce was what children and families said they wanted from their social worker via complaints, independent reviewing officers’ reports and core group meetings.
Keeping talented people in
“Higher starting salaries are attractive but if we want to not just get people in, but keep talented people on, we need to think a little differently.
“Three years is a long time to lock someone in so we knew to make that really attractive it had to be quite a significant sum of money.”
Wardell said the council had not lost a single social worker since the inadequate Ofsted judgement, with everyone covered by the package being retained.
“It’s unusual for a council, after a bad Ofsted judgement, to not only not lose staff but also see their agency bill go down,” Wardell said.
“I can’t say for sure the retention package is why, but it is the only obviously different thing we’ve done and this outcome is certainly encouraging.”