Number of agency staff used by Wakefield's children's services falls

A recent Ofsted report highlighted improvements within the service's workforce.
A recent Ofsted report highlighted improvements within the service's workforce.

The number of agency workers being used to help prop up Wakefield Council's children's services has declined significantly in recent months.

A total of 58 social workers were hired from agencies by the improving service last month, compared to the 86 who were being used at the height of the department's troubles last year.

The council's over-reliance on temporary staff, used to plug gaps in the permanent workforce, was criticised by Ofsted in 2018, when children's services was placed into special measures.

It was later revealed that employing agency workers, who generally command higher pay rates than permanent staff, was costing the council around £2m.

But as progress within children's services has continued, more full-time staff have been hired, with a further 27 workers set to join permanently within the next few weeks.

Speaking at a children and young people scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, the service's corporate director, Beate Wagner, said: "We think that with the additional staff we'll have through our latest recruitment processes, that reliance will start to reduce further.

"We'd always rather recruit permanent workers, but our agency workers have absolutely helped us to get to this stage on the improvement journey, so we need to appreciate that."

Councillors were told that morale among social workers has improved significantly, while around six long-serving agency workers are set to join the service permanently.

Ms Wagner added: "People are now feeling much more supported.

"If staff weren't feeling so positive, we wouldn't be recruiting as well as we are, because no matter how much you advertise, if word of mouth gets out that things aren't good, then people don't come.

"So I'm really heartened by that. In the recent YourSay staff survey, all the key indicators have significantly improved, even though they're still not quite as good as the council as a whole."

Local Democracy Reporting Service