Agency Social Workers – Frequently Asked Questions

The Protocol

  • How will the protocol be enforced?  Each Local Authority will need to ensure that they make arrangements internally to support the approach we have agreed.  There will be review points at regular intervals both at the regional Director of Children’s Services meetings and at the Agency Worker Project Group.  If any Local Authority hears of another LA not working to the Protocol this will be addressed at DCS level (DCS to DCS cc Polly Reed).
  • What roles does this apply to?  It is only for Children’s Services and relates to all Social Worker Professional Roles (including in Adoption, Fostering, Mental Health and the LADO role) the following roles, which should all fit into the published 5 categories.   IROs who have their own category.
  • When will the protocol be reviewed?  It will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, and reissued and updated periodically.  We will keep you informed if it changes.
  • How will the West Midlands work with Local Authorities on the fringes of the region?  We have made contact with our neighbouring LAs to share what we are doing, and invite them to join in if our approach suits them.  We know most regions have also been working to tackle the issues we have identified and we are receptive to sharing learning.
  • How will this protocol affect existing staff?  The spirit of the protocol will apply across all Agency Workers but the new cap will only apply to new engagements from 1 January 2015.  Every Agency Worker will benefit from the standardised reference and Quality Record.

Pay Rates

  • Should every LA pay the same rate for each worker now?  The hourly rates are a cap not a regional rate.  Each Local Authority can negotiate any rate that suits their requirements as long as it does not exceed the published caps.
  • Do the rates apply to non-front line Social Workers?  Yes, the rates apply to all Social Workers in Children’s Services whatever their team.  Specific arrangements are currently being put in place for IROs.
  • Different LAs have different contractual terms and conditions (such as a different standard number of working hours), how will that work? The worker will fit in with the standard working practice of the LA they are being placed at.
  • Some Local Authorities are commissioning packages of agency workers in a different way, will these approaches be exempt from the cap?  No, all Agency Workers placed in our Local Authorities will be subject to the cap.
  • Can agencies continue to pay bonuses to their staff?  Referral bonuses will not be affected, but loyalty bonuses will only be payable if it does not take the worker over the cap for their job role.
  • How did you determine the rates?  The rates are based on the averages of what is paid at each level across the region.  There is no deliberate correlation between the PAYE rates and Ltd Company Rates.
  • What incentive will there be for people to work in agencies if they are going to be at pay parity? In the initial 12 months caps at pay parity will only be existing for newly qualified social workers. Generally the market is for experienced workers with extra skills and it is comparatively rare for any agency placements be made for relatively inexperienced workers. Also Councils generally do not have a difficulty in sourcing newly qualified workers directly. However the rate has been noted as it allows for Councils to make use of local arrangements which may include using agencies to continue student placements, use agencies to help with permanent campaigns potentially using extended hire periods, and also it may allow for candidates to access a number of different job categories or roles with the flexibility of a temporary worker rather than on a confirmed contract.

Training

  • How are you going to roll out the training you mention?  Each LA will be responsible for making their own arrangements.  This will be reviewed in the same way as the rest of the protocol.

Quality Record

  • If the issue is quality why are LAs being asked to provide pay details?
    West Midlands ADCS wish to use the quality record as an opportunity to monitor the regional pay cap agreement.
  • How can LAs ensure they are gaining consent fairly? Will agency workers feel as though they have to give consent or not work in the West Midlands? The consent document will be provided to the ADCS as an appendix to the Data Sharing Protocol.  It will be made clear that consent is optional and that not giving consent will not impede employment in West Midlands; similarly nor will giving consent ensure employment. This is a voluntary process.
  • Will consent be refreshed? Refreshing consent is not necessary, however all social workers have the right to withdraw consent at any time and this will be made clear in the consent document (fair processing notice).
  • How will we gain consent from new partners? If new local authorities join the network agreement they will be expected to sign up to the sharing agreement and have an information exchange agreement between themselves and Walsall. The process for obtaining consent from agency social workers would be exactly the same.