The council has recruited social workers from South Africa to tackle problems with filling positions and retaining staff.

A Freedom of Information request (FOI) submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) found out exactly how much each council in Greater Manchester (GM) has spent in three years to maintain their staffing levels in the social care sector – totalling £123,242,762.

It is difficult to quantify exactly how much more it costs to recruit social workers and carers from agencies than it would to employ people in-house.

But GM's town halls say they are keen to reduce their dependence on agency staff.

Bury Council said that the recruitment and retention of both social workers and social care staff was a problem across the country – and that they were looking to South Africa for social workers.

It is not known how many carer vacancies there are currently in GM, with many on zero hours contracts.

According to the most recent data from Skills for Care from 2021/2022 there are estimated to be 6,300 vacancies for care workers alone across GM.

Nationally, the number of unfilled care worker posts is as high as 165,000 in the same time period.

In GM specifically, the lowest paid care workers, as of April 2023, secured a 14.7 per cent pay to a minimum of £10.90 an hour.

But Unison, the union which represents thousands of people in the sector, argues that the "profit motive" of agencies continues to suppress wages in the sector, leading to a high turnover of agency staff and affecting the quality of care.

In the Freedom of Information request, all 10 of GM's authorities were asked how many adult and children’s social worker vacancies they currently had and how much they were spending on agency staff in both adult and children’s social care since 2020.

All councils spent significantly more on the children’s social care sector than adults – the data suggests.

The total sum is likely to be higher than the headline figure as Bury Council was not able to provide data for the full three year period.

At the time of responding, a total of 745 social worker vacancies were active in the region.

All councils explained how they were trying their best to create systems and structures in order to get more permanent staff in and be able to keep them.

Bury's adult social care agency spend was £1,366,300, it spent £2,781,400 on children’s social care agency expense and there were 47 social worker vacancies.

The figures date from June 1, 2022 to May 31 this year.

A council spokesman said: “Bury, in common with districts across the country, has faced real challenges in recruiting and retaining social care staff and social workers.

"We have been taking a number of measures to address this, offering a range of incentives to come and work and live here.

“Another method we are using is overseas recruitment.

"This has already succeeded in our children’s services department, which has recently recruited a number of social workers from South Africa.

“In social care – we are playing the lead role in GM in developing an international recruitment programme.

"Working closely with NHS GM ICB, each of the ten GM local authorities has signed up to access DHSC funding to boost recruitment of overseas workers into the social care sector.

“The GM delivery model, co-designed with local authority commissioners, workforce leads, and with independent sector providers, will include a GM-wide offer of manager training, employee guidance and pastoral support as well as access to training.

“A key component of the programme will be small grants for which care providers can apply, to support their own international recruitment efforts, and the programme team is working with safeguarding leads from across GM to ensure ethical approaches to recruitment are promoted and maintained.”

Back in November 2022, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt announced that all local authorities could raise council tax by five per cent – two per cent of which would go towards funding social care services.

Most GM councils raised council tax by 4.99 per cent come the Spring budget, except for Bolton, Oldham and Stockport who decided on a 3.99 per cent rise.

All these councils capitalised on the two per cent to help better finance social care.