Posted: Mon 14th Nov 2022

Flintshire council looks overseas to fill senior social care vacancies in bid to cut agency costs

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Nov 14th, 2022

A nationwide lack of senior qualified social care workers is contributing to Flintshire Council’s use of agency workers to help deliver the service.

To reduce the reliance on agency staff, the council hopes to be able to recruit from overseas to fill vacancies in social care, and is waiting on approved sponsor status from the Home Office to be able to do this.

A report to the authority’s Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee this week gives an update on the council’s current workforce, and the two areas where agency spend is highest are Streetscene and Transportation (£737,000) and social care (£442,000).

The council is seeking to further reduce its overall spend on agency workers after spending £1.5m overall for the year 2022/23.

The report states: “Streetscene currently have circa 40 agency workers who are going through our on-boarding (clearance process) for various positions such as Chargehand, Streetscene Operative, Waste Collection & Household Recycling Centre Operatives.

“Further recruitment exercises are planned for the coming weeks which should lead to further reductions in the number of agency workers.

“The cumulative ‘Off-contract’ spend for 2022/23 is £494,000, which equates to 32.50 per cent of the overall agency spend.”

Detail is provided about the difficulties faced in recruiting social workers, leading to the reliance on agency staff – but this is also becoming costly and “unsustainable” the report from the council’s corporate manager for people and organisational development warns.

“The main reasons for ‘off-contract’ spend is where there is a need to fill specialist, hard to fill roles such as social workers”, the report adds.

“Like most authorities, as demand for experienced Level 3 social workers outstrips supply, we have had to rely on agencies.

It adds: “There is very high demand for agency staff with the average hourly rate having increased from £36 in 2019 to a current rate of up to £48. This is creating an unsustainable position and financial impact.”

“There are potential opportunities to recruit appropriately qualified and experienced social care workers from oversees via the Health and Social Care Worker visa launched in mid-2020 to address the workforce challenges faced by the health and social care sector in the UK. An application is in progress for us to become a Home Office approved sponsor.

“We are also working collaboratively with neighbours to develop a unified approach to workforce recruitment and retention to limit the opportunities for agency workers to join/leave council’s for more money thus driving up costs.”

The Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee meets on Thursday (November 17) to discuss the report.

By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter

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