Denbighshire Council’s £214k Bill For Agency Social Workers

An under-fire North Wales council paid out £214,000 in four months to employ agency social workers. The temporary staff wages paid by Denbighshire County Council were the equivalent of a £33,000-a-year salary.

Yet full-time experienced social workers are paid on average £24,000.

The figures were revealed by the authority under a Freedom of Information Act request.

It was estimated for the same outlay on 14 part-time agency staff, the council could have employed eight full-time grade three social workers for a year.

The member of the public who sought the information, and asked not to be identified, claimed in some cases former social work staff who left the authority, then returned to the same job as higher paid agency staff.

“There is no sign or record of Denbighshire County Council advertising for social workers in the posts currently being filled by these agency social workers so this excessive wage bill will continue for the foreseeable future,” he said.

“This is an extreme waste of taxpayers’ money that could be used in other more important under-financed areas and this needs investigating.”

Denbighshire council bosses, under fire recently following a damning education report with 13 councillors calling for leader Rhiannon Hughes to step down, defended their actions.

The council lost a number of experienced social workers about six years ago due to the rising number of agency vacancies available, the authority said.

It launched a nationwide recruitment campaign for experienced social workers and also employed staff from overseas as a short term measure.

“We have advertised for a number of senior social workers but failed to appoint,” a council spokesman said.

“The council also has vacancies which are regularly advertised on the Denbighshire and other national websites, 15 social work and social work management posts have been advertised since January 2007. However, in common with all other Welsh councils, Denbighshire does find difficulty in recruiting senior social workers. As a result we do employ some agency social workers. Compared to many authorities across Wales, the number of agency staff employed in Denbighshire is low.”

The authority said it made progress in recruiting to its permanent workforce and continued with a ‘robust approach’ to growing its own workforce, supporting student social workers and developing their careers within the county.

The spokesman said: “We have recruited 14 social workers through traineeships and bursaries since 2001. Five trainee social workers are undertaking their degree with the potential of recruiting two more social workers through bursaries by July 2008.

“A number of our trainees have now had several years experience in dealing with cases and are taking on more complex cases, gaining their Post Qualifying awards and one has just been appointed to a senior practitioner post.

“In the meantime, where we need experienced staff to undertake complex work, the work will, if necessary, be carried out by agency staff.”