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Devon’s struggling care services pay double to fill vacancies

December 10, 2020 3:47 PM

Concerned ladyStruggling care services in Devon are having to pay double to recruit skilled social workers to fill vacancies, with some earning over £71,800 a year.

The details were disclosed by Devon County Council in response to the county's Liberal Democrats, campaigning on a series of children's care issues.

"Devon currently has 92 social workers employed through an agency and county hall is having to pay top whack to fill the gaps and keep care services going," said Cllr Alan Connett, Liberal Democrat opposition leader on the county council.

The average salary paid by Devon to social workers it employs directly is £35,500 a year.

Cllr Connett added: "For seven long years Children's Services across Devon County Council have been found to be inadequate by the Government's external inspectors."

The newly published figures suggest County Hall is still not on top of the issue and relying on expensive agency workers to keep things going.

"One of the main problems is the high turnover of children's social workers", says Cllr Julian Brazil, a member of the authority's Children's Services Scrutiny Committee and Lib Dem deputy group leader.

"There are a number of reasons and they include, I believe, less favourable terms and conditions than neighbouring authorities, a lack of training opportunities and an unstructured career path. As a result we have to use agency staff when social workers leave - hence the extra cost. That's why I am calling on Devon County Council to improve the terms and conditions of employment and invest in the support for our social workers.

Also revealed is that 225 children and young people have been placed in care outside the Devon County Council area, with 133 placed outside the County. The furthest child in care is 248 miles away from Exeter. However, that is not the furthest Devon County Council has placed a child in care this year.

"Earlier this year a child or young person was in care 288 miles from Exeter and while the council says that it sometimes has to use specialist care placements, I do worry about the impact this has for families and for visiting," said Cllr Connett. "It's time for a new approach at County Hall. After seven long years of continued failure to get children's care services out of trouble we need a fresh plan and not more of the same which has failed to deliver improvements in past years."

Across a range of children's services, Devon appears in trouble.

Cllr Connett also pointed to the long delays in issuing Education Health & Care Plans which used to be known as Statements of Special Educational Need, which was only addressed after concerns raised by parents with the Ombudsman.

"The most recent report by OFSTED, the Government inspectors, revealed the county council had lost touch with some older children who were living in inadequate accommodation after leaving care, but should still have been under the council's watchful care. I don't believe the Conservatives running Devon really know how to tackle these problems which have happened on their watch. We need a plan that we know can work and to draw on the lessons and experiences from other councils."