More East Renfrewshire social workers to be hired with £1.8 million investment

More social workers could be employed in East Renfrewshire as the council plans to invest over £1.8m of reserves to ease “serious financial challenges”.

A temporary reduction in employers’ contributions to the Strathclyde Pension Fund has freed up £6.3m each year for the council in 2024/25 and 2025/26.

When setting a budget for 2024/25 in February, councillors agreed to put aside the money to allow a budget strategy group to develop proposals on how it should be used.

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Now, a report to East Renfrewshire Council’s cabinet suggests an initial phase of investment should put £700,000 into the area’s health and social care partnership (HSCP).

It would be used to “increase social worker capacity to support transition reviews/care packages” and “significantly increase care package review team capacity”.

Education would receive £350,000 as the council aims to reduce child poverty and the poverty-related attainment gap. Funding would go into staff coaching to improve support in early learning settings, using data to identify financially vulnerable households and increasing frontline staff awareness of poverty to “widen support for intervention”.

The environment department could get £400,000 towards developing a plan to “inform policy and approach to the introduction of parking charges”.

An additional role would be created to review the council and HSCP’s vehicles to “maximise utilisation and efficiency”. It would inform a future transition to electric vehicles.

Another £400,000 would be allocated to health and wellbeing support for staff, including counselling, leadership development and mentoring. It would also be used on “improved policies on recruitment, retention and wellbeing” and exploring “apprenticeships/graduate opportunities”.

The largest employers in the pension fund, which includes the 12 councils in the former Strathclyde region, will contribute 6.5% of the value of their payroll over the next two years, before rates revert to 17.5%.

It comes after fund managers reported a “very strong funding position” which “allows some flexibility to reduce contribution rates” in September last year.

A report by officials states there is £12.6m of “one-off resource which can be utilised to benefit the council in future”.

It adds the council “faces serious challenges in the short to medium term, with estimated gross budget gaps of £15m, £5m and £5m for the years from 2025/26 to 2027/28”.

“As such, it was recognised that the council may have to consider using some of the ‘Investment in the Future’ reserve to assist with short-term budget pressures, thereby allowing more time to put in place future recurring savings plans.”

The “immediate focus” is on the four projects included in the report, but further spending proposals will be brought to cabinet once they have been identified.

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