Birmingham City Council is to raise the price paid for agency social workers by almost £9 per hour in a bid to fill 161 vacancies in the crisis-hit child protection service.
Despite growing demand for child protection in the city, council bosses have struggled to fill frontline vacancies at current pay levels and say they have no option but to increase the hourly rate - in part to keep pace with pay offered by neighbouring local authorities.
A standard social worker with more than two years' experience will now cost £33.41 per hour, up from £24.54.
Newly qualified social workers will see a more modest increase from £22.36 to £24.72 and hour, while those at senior practitioner and team leader levels will receive rises of up to £3.50 per hour. These figures are the payment to the agency - not the take home pay of staff.
The city council's children's services department, which has been rated as inadequate since 2009, is being overseen by government-appointed Commissioner Lord Warner.
A report to the council's Labour cabinet states that managers have found recruiting permanent staff 'challenging' with 161 vacancies out of a total of 485 frontline staff - and are looking to agencies to fill the void until permanent staff can be recruited.
Cabinet member for children's services Brigid Jones said: "Great social workers make a huge difference to children's lives and are the key to improving our services.
"Our recruitment strategy is already bearing fruit with 98 new starters coming here between March and December last year. Many of our internal staff are also moving up the career ladder here to take on more responsibility and increase their contribution.
"However, we still need agency staff to ensure everyone has manageable case loads, of course this means paying them a rate that compares favourably with other West Midlands authorities."
Lord Warner was appointed last April to turn the struggling department around. He has reported progress being made but suggested £140 million needed to be invested in improvement over the next three years.
The council last week approved a £21 million increase in the department's annual budget, in part to help fill the shortage of social workers. At the time council leader Sir Albert Bore said he believed child protection was 'turning the corner' after years of failure.