A four-year £12 million contract for agency social care workers is set to be agreed by Peterborough City Council.
Long-term struggles to recruit permanent staff cost the council over £1.8 million last year due to a dependence on temporary staff.
In 2015/16, the council spent over £3.4 million on agency workers for children’s and adult social care. This would have been £1.6 million if permanent staff had been used instead.
The number of permanent children’s social care workers has risen from 50 to 61 in the past year, with the number of agency staff down from 26 to 15.
In adult social care, there are 27 permanent workers and eight agency staff working at any one time.
Typically an agency social worker costs approximately £60,500 a year compared to £37,000-£45,000 for a full-time worker.
Last year, the council’s Conservative-run cabinet agreed to pilot the recruitment of 12 specialist team support workers. They would work with children with lower priority needs and support the work of social workers with more complex cases.
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, corporate director: people and communities, said: “The reality is that there is a shortage of experienced social workers nationally - Peterborough is no different.
“We cannot leave social worker posts unfilled and so inevitably we have to use agency staff to meet the needs of our communities. This is expensive and can lead to a high level of agency staff turnover.
“We have found in the past year that by improving our reward structure and professional development support, it is helping us to better compete with other local authorities. As a result we now employ more permanent social workers and fewer agency staff than a year ago. This is a trend that we hope to see continue.
“Long term we are aiming to reduce our reliance on qualified social workers by, for example, employing specialist support staff to work with children with lower priority needs. We will always continue to use experienced social workers in complex situations and for children on protection plans.”
The new contract will run from August 30, 2016 until August 30, 2019 with an option to extend it for another year.
It will cost approximately £3 million per year.