Local Authorities announce plans to introduce £21 an hour pay cap for agency Social Workers

Local Authorities announce plans to introduce pay cap for agency Social Workers

Social Work Tutor has learned that a group of Local Authorities in the North East of England have come together to introduce a pay cap for all agency Social Workers. According to a source within one of the areas affected, the rates are due to be capped at:

  • £17 an hour for newly qualified Social Workers
  • £21 an hour for experienced Social Workers (based on a day rate)

Announced today, these pay caps are expected to come into play by the end of May.

With current rates in the affected areas averaging £28 an hour, agency Social Workers are set to see their take home pay drop by over £1000 a month. When you add in the impact of recent IR35 tax changes, agency Social Workers facing this new pay cap could end up losing more than of a third of their income.

The Social Worker who has blown the whistle on these plans wishes to remain anonymous, but had this to say to Social Work Tutor on the looming changes:

“All of our agency Social Workers are saying they’re going to leave because of this. They’re already on the phone to their agencies asking about jobs in other areas or how much notice they have to give. Apparently, their agencies are saying that they weren’t told about these plans either, it’s a total mess. The Local Authorities are gambling that people are going to take permanent positions or that they can fill the new vacancies with newly qualified Social Workers graduating this summer”.

“It’s the children I really worry about though. Who is going to take on their cases when half of the workforce leave next month? What’s going to happen to them when you take out years of experienced and are left with Social Workers who are either newly qualified or just coming off the end of fast track programmes?”

If these plans come to fruition, the immediate future of children’s safeguarding in the North East of England looks bleak. With agency Social Workers already having to stand IR35 tax changes, there is no wiggle room left to absorb a wage cut on top. Working in the region becomes immediately unsustainable for anyone who lives out of the area and we’ll likely see a mass exodus over the coming weeks.

Longer-term, Local Authorities are banking on winning a game of brinkmanship in the hope that agency Social Workers will be forced to take up the permanent positions they once left behind. While there can be little argument that settled teams full of permanent staff are the ideal situation for Local Authorities, this gamble misses the reason why people choose to leave full-time posts in the first place.

Agency Social Workers aren’t the cause of failing departments, they are the symptom of underpaying and overworking permanent staff for years on end.

What Local Authorities should have done is put time, effort and resources into nurturing their workforce. They should have kept in place old systems of seconding staff into Social Work and nurturing their workforce over years. Instead we have seen employees treated as white collar wage slaves, forced to work in toxic environments and cowed by the threat of an HCPC referral should they buckle under pressure.

If this move succeeds in the North East, expect cash-strapped Local Authorities all over the country to follow suit. Dark times lie ahead.


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