£230k bonuses at Sandwell Children’s Trust despite looming £3.6m deficit
Cash-strapped Sandwell Children’s Trust is to pay staff an extra £226,640 in bonuses despite facing a spiralling multi-million pound overspend.
The trust, which runs the council’s service for protecting vulnerable and at-risk youngsters, will pay out up to £500 end-of-year bonuses to nearly 500 staff.
It comes after the trust revealed last month a predicted £3.6 million overspend as the numbers of children in care rises.
Bosses have defended the payments, saying it is to reward staff who have been working hard to turn the service around.
The trust took over children’s services in the borough from Sandwell Council earlier this year after Ofsted rated the council's service ‘inadequate.’
The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith, chairman of Sandwell Children’s Trust, said: “Having a permanent and stable workforce is best for children in Sandwell and this is a key part of our improvement plan.
“The trust has more permanent, experienced social workers than Sandwell has had in recent memory – and we are expecting further increases in permanent social workers in early 2019.
“This is good news for Sandwell children and it also saves money on employing agency social workers, which is more expensive.
“This has been driven by strong retention of newly-qualified social workers completing their first year programme in Sandwell – 25 of the 28 social workers who had completed the programme over the previous 12 months are still with the trust.
“Funding for the £500 payments are from an underspend in the early days of the trust when we had a significant number of vacancies.
"These payments recognise the effort that all staff have made and are making to meet the new challenges, as well as helping to retain staff.”
The trust said it employees 500 people of which 492 qualify for the payment, including part-time staff who will receive a proportion of the payment.
From April 2017 to March 2018, the number of looked-after youngsters in the borough rose by 200 to 801.
By George Makin, Local Democracy Reporter
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