Concern has been raised over Dundee City Council’s spending on agency staff as it is revealed the local authority spent almost £1 million on ad-hoc social workers last year.
Figures obtained from the local authority show a total of £924,000 was paid out to eight different locum agencies to cover staffing shortages in 2018/19.
UK-wide, councils are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on locums to cover social care gaps amid a recruitment crisis, while NHS boards are also using agencies for the same reason.
Their use has been criticised as short-sighted and expensive as the temporary workers are usually paid a higher hourly rate.
Dundee Labour Leader Kevin Keenan said it was one of a number of “over-spending” issues that needs to be looked at.
He said: “Agency work always concerns me when it comes to social care as employment agencies just take an additional financial cut for arranging cover.
“I believe it would be cheaper to employ people direct, even if it was on temporary/short term contracts.
“These people may well impress and be given a permanent role.
“When council and our health services are so cash strapped, we really need to look at the most cost effective methods ensuring every penny is spent on care.
“It concerns me. We often ask questions about the amount being spent on agencies to try and keep it down.
“It’s something that goes on in the health service regularly as we all know.”
The cash was used to cover shortages in both children’s services (£162,000) and adult care (£762,000)
It comes as it’s revealed Dundee City Council is facing another decade of austerity, with a projected £78.1 million budget shortfall over the next 10 years.
The local authority expects it will have to find savings and efficiencies equal to a fifth of that total – £17.3m – in its budget next year alone after making £9m of savings this year.
A spokesperson for Dundee City Council said: “We closely monitor social worker numbers and take prompt action to fill vacant posts.
“Agency workers have been used consistently over the years to ensure a high level of care and support is continually delivered to our service users.
“We continue to make an ongoing effort to recruit additional social workers.”