Councils form a coalition to protect children’s services

32 councils across London have joined forces in an attempt to avoid ‘bidding wars’ over agency social workers. 

In the face of immense finance pressures and challenges recruiting and retaining children’s social workers, 32 councils across the capital have agreed on a London-wide pay rate scheme and a policy of not using agency staff who left permanent posts elsewhere in the capital within the last six months.

photo of city lights

The government recently launched a consultation on use of children’s social care agencies, which was published alongside its new strategy for social care.

Boroughs claim this ‘unprecedented level of collaboration’ is reducing competition between one another over children’s social care staff.

Alongside this, London Councils are also working closely with agency suppliers of social workers. As a result of this, children’s service departments report they have better control over costs and have been able to keep high standards through more information sharing on references and improving retention rates.

Currently, it is estimated there are over 5,000 children’s social workers in the capital and agency workers account of 22% – the highest of any region in England.

Additionally, demand for children’s social care in London has increased as the child population has risen by 14%, compared to 6% across the rest of England.

The collaboration across the capital is part of a wider workforce programme led by the Association of London Directors of Children’s Services. The programme states every London Borough is sharing staffing and recruitment data clearly and contributing to a shared strategy aimed at reducing competition and improving the working environment for social workers.

Against this backdrop, a formal London Pledge was launched in June last year, with almost all boroughs committed to its protocols. The pledge claims to sufficiently manage the agency supply chain, improve the quality of agency staff, and regulate pay rates within children’s social work.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg UK reported a number of UK social-care workers are unlawfully paid less than the minimum wage once their travel costs are included and would earn more by working in a supermarket.

London Councils’ Executive Member for Children & Young People, Cllr Ian Edwards, said: ‘When it comes to children’s social care workforce strategies, replacing competition with collaboration will bring big benefits to boroughs and our staff – but mostly importantly to the vulnerable children we work with.

‘The London Pledge is an important step forward. Although it only started six months ago, we are already seeing some improvements, and we are keen to investigate the potential for more collaboration across the country.

‘London boroughs firmly believe this collegiate approach will bring much-needed stability and improve results for everyone.’

Photo by Gordon Williams


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