Lancashire County Council workers are being offered an unexpected “bonus”.
They can bag £500 if they can help to recruit experienced social workers to the council children’s service.
The council has enlisted the help of its own staff as ambassadors to spread the word about vacancies in its children’s social care team.
Details of the cash incentive are now posted on the council’s staff intranet. In addition the council recently mounted an £11,000 recruitment campaign.
The council is still reeling from Government watchdog OFSTED’s verdict in November 2015, when the county’s children’s services were judged to be “inadequate” and the council was told it had too many inexperienced social workers. But recent reports have noted some good progress is being made and the council now needs to keep up the pace of improvement.
Coun Geoff Driver, leader of the Tory opposition group, raised the payments issue at a cabinet committee on performance improvement on Monday, saying: “We’re actually offering a reward to our staff of £500 if a recommendation of their’s leads to the appointment of a social worker with three year’s experience...I’m disappointed we’ve to give our own staff, who are aware of our problems, £500 to get their friends to come and work for us. That’s what I find difficult to swallow. I’ve been in local government a long time and I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for Children, Young People and Schools,said: “Social workers tend to know each other. The idea came to the Improvement Board and the suggestion was £250, but I said it was not enough...people have not only got to come, they’ve to stay.”
Partnership manager Richard Cooke said the scheme helped put the council in touch with experienced social workers.
Coun leader Coun Jenny Mein said research showed the county council’s social workers were keen to work for Lancashire. But recruitment problems were a national issue. She said: “There’s a huge amount of competition from other authorities who are all equally struggling. It’s a bit like doctors at accident and emergency. It’s a national problem - there are not enough social workers.”
After the meeting Coun Tomlinson said: “The recruitment and retention of high quality staff in children’s social care is absolutely vital as we continue on the improvement journey OFSTED has set us. I’m prepared to look at any strategies or initiatives that can help Lancashire recruit and keep the very best people.”
•OFSTED will make a return visit to the county council on January 11 and 12 to further assess how improvement work is progressing.