Extra funding has been secured to attract experienced social workers in Wiltshire, as the council seeks to recruit around 20 new child protection officers.

This morning Wiltshire Council’s cabinet approved 10 and 15 per cent ‘market supplement’ pay increases for senior social workers, in a bid to lessen its dependence on agency workers.

The council wants to fill around 20 posts in its four safeguarding teams across the county, and agreed to the increase after a review comparing its pay scales to other neighbouring authorities.

Laura Mayes, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We are struggling to recruit into the safeguarding teams, and it’s important we get that right.

“They are the social workers working with families at crisis point. They are making decisions about children’s lives that are really life-saving; whether to put them on a child protection plan, or into care.

“We have a lot of agency staff in those positions at the moment, but we would like to recruit more permanent staff, and reward those who are currently here.”

Along with the pay rises, which will take place with immediate effect, the council has launched a recruitment drive aimed at attracting experienced social workers to Wiltshire.

Coun Mayes said: “There are many other measures we are putting into place.

“We want to reduce caseloads, give more administrative support, and we want to reduce bureaucracy, to free up more time to work with families.

"We also hope to improve and increase management oversight, and improve our training schemes so there is better carer development for our existing and new staff.”

The extra pay has been allocated from the council’s general reserves, but it is hoped employing less agency workers will still save money.

Coun Mayes said: “If we carry on paying our agency staff as we are it’s costing us £900,000 a year, so by paying a supplement to get more staff to stay we are saving money, it’s not even investing to save.

“The safety of Wiltshire’s vulnerable children drives everything we do and these proposals are aimed at attracting permanent staff to continue that commitment.”