North West Local Authority implements changes to stay within social care budget

“Building my relationship with Comensura has allowed us both to deliver a fast and efficient service for the provision of temporary staff authority wide. Solutions have been sought and delivered to fill difficult roles and support was outstanding during the provision of a temporary Chief Executive.”

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This North West Local Authority is one of the biggest in the region providing services to hundreds of thousands of people. Comensura has a very well-established working relationship with the Authority providing it with temporary and contingent staff over the last few years. 

At present most, if not all, local authorities in the UK are facing severe financial pressures hit by the ‘perfect storm’ of higher inflation, prices and rising demand for their services. To alleviate the strain on their budgets local authorities are looking at how best to make savings, including staffing costs, without damaging the levels of service they provide.  

This is especially pertinent when it comes to social care services. No Local Authority wants to make cuts which put the vulnerable people they serve at risk. 

However, the North West Local Authority was faced with a particular challenge around the contrasting salaries of their permanent and temporary social work employees. 

The hourly rates of temporary social workers at the North West Local Authority were set at over 60% higher than the permanent staff - well ahead of market rates. This had been a deliberate policy of the Authority to attract more temporary staff, but it was proving to be a major problem in the current climate. 

The Authority simply could not afford to keep paying that rate to temporary workers and stay within its social care budget, especially given expectations that wage pressure was only going to intensify as costs continue to rise. 

Another consequence of its wage policy was that permanent social work staff, upset by the pay differential, were leaving the Authority to take up temporary positions at other local authorities.  

This lack of retention had the potential to have a negative impact on the local community as vulnerable people had to continually rebuild close relationships with new social workers. The Local Authority were keen not to let families in the area down. 

The Authority had to find a way to implement changes to pay levels to stay within its social care budget but at the same time retain staff with huge experience, competence and those valuable, long-standing client relationships. 

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