A FREEDOM of Information request from the Welsh Conservatives has found that Bridgend Council spent £1,147,354 on agency social workers in the year Logan Mwangi was killed.
Logan was murdered by his mother, stepfather, and a teen in July 2021. The family was known to social services, but Logan was removed from the Child Protection Register a month before his death.
The figure represents a huge jump from the £165,624 spent the year before and £146,496 in 2019/20.
Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Minister for Social Services Gareth Davies MS said: “We’ve known about understaffing in Wales’ social services departments for a long while now, well before the current labour shortages we are seeing nationwide, which is what makes councils’ reliance on agency workers so concerning.
“This is all the truer in Bridgend where Logan was killed, and while we don’t know whether it contributed to the failings that left him in an unsafe environment, the Council’s recent dependence on agency workers is very worrying and does not inspire confidence going forward.
“Children need a strong presence from social services, but this cannot happen when councils are so dependent on agency staff because permanent placements are what lead to better outcomes as someone can handle a case consistently that way.
“I think our findings only serve to support our calls for a Wales-wide review of social services, especially since Wales is the only British nation without one and has the worst rate of looked-after children in the UK, all of which makes Mark Drakeford’s rejection of one so disappointing.”
The reliance of local authorities on agency social workers has become a significant area of concern in recent months after a council that admitted it failed to prevent the murder of toddler Star Hobson has a serious staff retention problem in its children’s services.
Bradford Council spent £12.3m on agency staff in the last year – representing a doubling of its spend since the 16-month-old girl died on 22 September 2020 – the highest spend in the country.
Welsh Conservative research recently revealed that 376 agency social workers were employed by Welsh councils last year at a cost of £20,423,189, an increase from 365 for £18,522,072 in 2020/21 and 279 for £16,149,980 the year before.
Bridgend Council did not reply within the statutory time limit to be included in the figures.
The revelations come after Mark Drakeford’s continued reluctance to implement a review of children’s services across Wales – the only UK nation not to do so – despite having the worst rate of looked-after children of British nations.