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Bonkers Blog February 2016

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20 February - Get rich quick. Set up a staff recruitment agency

Occasionally oddments of information are received which are not usable for various reasons, for example the answer to an October 2015 FOI request asking how much had been spent on Social Worker agency staff was not by itself very interesting.

Nevertheless, the best part of six million pounds seemed to be an awful lot of money. How many Social Workers were there for goodness sake and what sort of salaries are being paid?
Without those figures, judging whether £5·61 million is reasonable is impossible. The information was filed away and I hoped I would remember where.

Then another of those little snippets of information came in. A job advertisement for a Senior Social Worker.
£32 an hour? That’s about £66,000 a year for the employee. How much for the agency?

All that was left to fill in the data gap was some idea of the number of social workers employed. Cabinet Member Philip Read always speaks of percentages of posts filled, percentage that are agency staff etc. but never real numbers. But everything comes to he who waits.

The figures may not be bang up to date but they aren't more than a couple of months old.

The borough is divided into five for the purposes of Social Services each run by a manager and an assistant manager. The teams each have five or six Social Workers and three support staff.

There are several centralized support teams too and the whole lot totals sixteen managers and assistant managers plus seventy Social Workers and their assistants. As Councillor Read has said several times recently, around 60% of the staff are now permanent employees.

Perhaps there is still not enough raw data to do the sums, but the total Social Services staff is about 86, of which approximately 40% (34) are agency staff. If the total bill is £5·61 million that works out at £165,000 each.

The weakness in the argument is that the £5·61 million is from 2014/15 when agency workers were more than 50% of the total, but even adjusting for that, the agencies must be raking in a fortune.

There is probably more to it than has so far been discovered but it becomes obvious why Cabinet Member Philip Read is so keen to put a London wide cap on what councils will pay the agencies.

With such a huge workforce it is difficult to believe they had no time to protect poor Rhys Lawrie.

A Bexley Councillor was involved with an employment agency. I’ve forgotten which one.


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