Northamptonshire County Council scheme to give agency social workers permanent jobs 'will pay for itself in a year', director says

Director of children's services Lesley Hagger says the new children's services organisation will "cut out red tape".
Director of children's services Lesley Hagger says the new children's services organisation will "cut out red tape".

A "golden hello" scheme to bring attract temporary agency social workers into full-time jobs at Northamptonshire County Council will pay for itself "in a year", a council chief has said.

The council is planning to bring agency social workers on board into permanent jobs with a cash incentive.

The new Northamptonshire County Council headquarters in Angel Street.

The new Northamptonshire County Council headquarters in Angel Street.

They say the savings made from paying full-time wages and the introductory bonuses will pay for the scheme inside of a year, as opposed to the cost of paying agency fees.

It comes as the council has revealed how it will use a £4million grant from the Government to set up its children's services under a new, separate organisation.

Lesley Hagger, director of children's services, said: "This is part of the council's new approach for service delivery.

"The services that we will generate through transferring temporary staff into permanent jobs will pay for itself in one year.

"The individual cash bonuses will be decided based on the social worker's expertise, time spent with the council and the role they will play. We don't have an exact estimate for the overall cost of transferring

"I think one of the difficulties facing children's services is an increase in the number of children coming into care against a reduction in Government ring-fenced budget. This pressure led to inadequacies in 2013, but we're past that now and we want to move forward."

In 2013, Northamptonshire County Council's children's services received an "inadequate" rating from Ofsted.

Since then, the authority has invested £20million a year into climbing out of the rating, leading to a "requires improvement" rating in an inspection in 2016.

Now, the new, as-of-yet-unnamed children's services organisation has been given the green light and a £4million start-up grant after Northamptonshire County Council was taken off special supervision by the Department for Education earlier this month.

The council hopes that by setting up children's services under the new organisation they have greater control over the contracts they can offer to staff and be able to offer more attractive jobs to social workers.

This will be helped by the cash incentive scheme that will be made to current agency staff draw them to take up full-time jobs at the council.

But any member of staff who leaves within three years of accepting the bonus will be made to pay it back.

Currently, a third of the council's social workers are hired in from private agencies, down from being nearly half of their workforce in 2016.

Ms Hagger said: "By offering agency workers permanent roles, we hope to decrease the number of private social workers in the council down to 10 per cent of our workforce by 2019.

"Social workers don't work nine-to-five, but flexible contracts are hard to establish under the county council. By separating children's services, we can cut out a lot of the red tape and create more attractive jobs for social workers.

"We want to give children in care everything that a good parent can give. I'm very excited that the new organisation will include a charity service for our own fundraising that will also help give children in care days out and holidays, and work experience for teenagers.

"We will also be bringing our individual services across the county into regional teams under local offices."