A SHORTAGE of social workers in Wiltshire means there is a risk to vulnerable children and adults, councillors have been told.

People “may suffer harm” if steps are not taken to improve the council’s ability to recruit.

In the short term the only answer is to pay up to 15 per cent more to attract experienced staff and managers.

This will cost £378,000 for children’s services in the current financial year, and £420,000 a year in future.

But if the council continues to rely on agency staff instead it could exceed its pay budget this year by £900,000.

A report to Wiltshire’s Cabinet, which met on Tuesday, explains that the decision has been taken to pay “market supplements” for some specific roles where service delivery has become “unsustainable”.

These are in the children’s safeguarding and MASH (multi agency safeguarding hub) teams where there are more than 30 agency staff in senior positions.

Provision has also been made to pay more, if necessary, for experienced workers and managers in other areas of children’s services and to attract team leaders in adult care, which has five vacancies.

The report says that nationally, there are too few experienced social workers, although many newly qualified ones are unable to find jobs. Supply and demand will not match up until 2022.

It also says that the recruitment difficulties in safeguarding children are part of a national problem, “due to the complex and stressful nature of these roles”.

And it warns that paying more will only work if other factors that affect retention of staff are addressed.

It is creating a professional development programme to fast-track newly qualified social workers and considering ways of introducing more flexible working.