Millions spent on agency social workers

A Guardian investigation has found that local authorities are having to spend millions of pounds on social work agencies as they struggle to recruit permanent staff.

Data obtained through freedom of information requests shows that English councils spent a total of at least £335 million last year hiring agency social workers, with some authorities employing nearly half of their children’s social workers through private companies.

The newspaper says that, as of September last year, 26 local authorities got more than 30 per cent of their children’s social work staff from agencies. The highest rates showed that 48 per cent of Swindon Council’s children’s social workers were employed through an agency, as were 47 per cent of Croydon’s. The average among English councils is 15 per cent.

The research also revealed that only 10 out of 152 local authorities in England hired one or no children’s social workers from agencies in September last year. Nine in 10 local authorities spent more than what they had budgeted for on children’s services last year.

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