Frustrated social workers are walking out on Kirklees Council.
The Examiner revealed last week that the council’s children’s services had been given the lowest rating by Ofsted, prompting the Department for Education (DfE) to intervene.
Improvement specialist Eleanor Brazil is now set to spend three months reviewing what’s gone wrong.
A Kirklees report on the crisis reveals staff leaving is one of the biggest problems.
It admits a high number of agency social workers are quitting at short notice, leaving those left behind with too much work.
A source has told the Examiner that dozens have decided they can’t take it any more in recent months, amid various frustrations with the job.
The council’s cabinet last night approved £448,707 to bring in a temporary team of experienced social workers for six months.
Clr Erin Hill, cabinet member for family support and child protection, said they had identified a need for a “short sharp intervention” to support the council’s permanent staff to make the changes needed.
Clr Hill said there was a national problem with recruiting and retaining social workers.
She said: “It’s quite simple, social workers were over worked and that obviously has an effect on what they’re able to do.
“There’s a national problem with recruitment and retention of social workers.
“We want to focus on how we can support our staff to stay with us.”
A £2,000 “golden hello” is currently being offered for some social work roles.
Clr Hill confirmed the DfE’s troubleshooter, Mrs Brazil, would be meeting with key council staff next week where arrangements for the next steps would be agreed.
Mrs Brazil, who will be the Children’s Commissioner for Kirklees, will not be running the department on a day-to-day basis but will report back to the DfE on whether she believes Kirklees is capable of turning its failing department around.
It has been revealed she has the power to recommend children’s social work should be outsourced.
Clr Hill said she was hopeful that it wouldn’t come to that.
She said regulator Ofsted’s “Inadequate” rating was not its view of staff but of the systems and processes used to look after children.
She said: “We’re in a good position to prove that we do have the capacity to improve.
“We should not underestimate the scale of the challenge. It’s a big transformation. It’s a case of years not months.”
The cost of turning the department round will depend on the commissioner’s ruling.
Kirklees says it only has a total of £2.9m spare cash for the entire authority this financial year.
It has agreed to prioritise children’s services for any money needed.
Tougher inspections regimes have caused similar crises at councils across the country.
Clr Hill said children’s services at about 80% of local authorities had been rated either “Inadequate” or “Requires Improvement” by Ofsted.
At the centre of the problem for most is a shortage of quality permanent staff.
The diagnosis has led to a competition for the best social workers.
Rotherham Council, an authority at the centre of a child sexual exploitation scandal, is offering its social workers a number of perks including; a 7.5% annual “retention bonus” for those that don’t leave, a relocation package and a salary of up to £38,720.
Kirklees Council is offering a £2,000 welcome package but Clr Hill said her focus was to create the right working environment so that staff felt valued and supported.
She said: “Thankfully we’re not in the same position Rotherham was.”
Kirklees is currently running a “rolling” advert for experienced social workers with a salary of up to £35,696.
The advertisement says those who qualify as a Level 3 worker will receive a £1,500 market rate supplement while team managers will get £4,500 above the market rate.
And it stresses that staff will have a “manageable caseload” and a “supportive manager”.