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Medway Council defends locum social worker for five years

By Dean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter

A cabinet member has defended Medway Council’s decision to employ a locum social worker for five years.

Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab) questioned the "strange and costly" situation in which the local authority has employed an independent reviewing officer (IRO) as a temporary measure since 2013.

Speaking at the latest meeting, he said: “I appreciate staffing is an issue, but I’m surprised there’s a locum member of staff employed by Medway Council for an extraordinary length of time.

Cllr Clive Johnson
Cllr Clive Johnson

“It seems strange and costly to have locums where permanent staff would be a better choice.”

The report, discussed by the council’s children and young people overview and scrutiny committee, also identifies three other social workers who have worked on behalf of the council as locums for three years.

Only 51% of the IRO team is currently made up of permanent staff.

Responding to the question about the officer in place since 2013, portfolio holder for adult services Cllr David Brake (Con) said: “I understand – having picked up on that myself – that’s an awfully long time.

“But the situation in that particular case is the individual is more comfortable working as a locum because of their own personal circumstances.

“It’s an arrangement that suits us with caseload and the way that particular individual works. It’s by mutual arrangement and consent.

“It’s certainly not ideal – ideally we would like that individual to be employed by us on a full-time basis.”

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