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COVID-19 Workforce Survey, week ending 11 December 2020

This report is part of a series of bi-weekly surveys of all councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland collecting key workforce data on how the sector is responding to COVID-19.

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An online survey is emailed to heads of human resources, or a nominated contact, in councils from England and Wales on alternate Wednesdays. The data requested relates to the week ending the preceding Friday. The intention is that this collection is the single national source through which such data is gathered, and it will, as appropriate, be shared with government departments and others in addition to providing comparator information for councils.

This report relates to the survey sent out on 16 December 2020 and covers the week ending 11 December 2020. The overall response rate was 49 per cent and covered around a third of the total workforce.

Key findings

  • Some 29 per cent of councils reported recruiting additional staff (of any type including casual, agency, contingent, etc) in the week ending 11 December2020. In total 1,142 additional staff had been recruited in responding authorities: the median number of staff per authority was four and the mean was 24.
  • More than half of respondent councils (111) have recorded deaths in service since lockdown. A total of 384 deaths in service were reported by respondents since the start of lockdown (cause not specified).
  • Twenty four per cent of councils reported that they had furloughed at least one member of staff. In total, responding authorities reported there were 3,150 staff furloughed in the week ending 11 December 2020, which was 0.7 per cent of the current workforce.
  • The main reason given for furloughing staff was that the funding had stopped (55 per cent) or that service had stopped (39 per cent).
  • Some 60 per cent of councils had redeployed staff. In total, in the responding authorities there were 3,233 staff redeployed in the week ending 11 December 2020, which was one per cent of the current workforce. The median number of staff redeployed was four and the mean was 20.
  • Just under nine in ten councils (86 per cent) reported that they had at least one member of staff unavailable for work. In total, respondents reported there were 24,439 staff unavailable for work in the week ending 11 December2020, five per cent of the current workforce. The median number of staff unavailable for work was 35 and the mean was 145.
  • Twenty per cent of staff were unavailable through ‘self-isolation (other)’ and 53 per cent were unavailable due to ‘non-COVID sickness’.
  • When asked whether individual services had enough staff to run them normally or not, the worst affected services were schools and public health: 11 per cent and 10 per cent of single tier and county councils, respectively, reported these services were operating with severe disruption due to staffing numbers. A further 34 per cent of single tier and county councils reported that schools were operating with moderate disruption. Also badly affected was adult social care, with 30 per cent reporting moderate disruption.
  • When asked to assess the council overall, in terms of whether there are enough staff to run services normally or not, 57 per cent reported they were not operating normally.
  • Councils were asked about the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing for staff. Ninety per cent reported they had about the right amount of PPE; whilst one per cent had less than they needed. Eighty two per cent said all the staff who need testing can access it.
  • Looking ahead, councils were asked if they were experiencing significant difficulties recruiting for some posts or not: 64 (36 per cent) said they were. Councils were subsequently asked to choose from a list of specialist occupations where they were experiencing difficulties: 56 per cent of councils were having difficulties recruiting children’s social workers, 39 per cent were having difficulties recruiting adult social workers.
  • Councils were asked to choose the five occupations or roles where recruitment difficulties were most acute. Fifty six per cent of the councils who answered the question had acute difficulties recruiting children’s social workers.
  • Out of the thirty four councils who had said they had acute difficulties in recruiting children’s social workers, 50 per cent said they had both difficulty recruiting generally and difficulty recruiting the required expertise, experience or qualification.
  • Councils were asked if they are likely to recruit additional staff specifically to COVID-19 and/or the EU transition or not: 33 per cent said they were not likely recruit additional staff and a further 25 per cent said they did not know. Seventy five (42 per cent) councils said yes, they were likely to be recruiting additional staff. Of these, 39 per cent said it was ‘in response to COVID-19’, two per cent said it was ‘in response to both’ and one per cent said it was ‘in response to EU transition’.

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