Report: Social services agency staffing lacking

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County’s Department of Social Services needs 23 more workers, a recent report shows.

Department Director Carla Taylor presented the information to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday as part of her agency’s annual report. An analysis conducted by a consultant found that her department operates at a deficit of 23 positions. That deficit creates an increased need for overtime, a risk of mistakes and delayed benefits to county residents, Taylor said. Additionally, workers rarely have time to make “friendly assessments” and give clients extra help.

Taylor told supervisors Tuesday that she and the Social Services Board plans to hold off on making any requests for staff funding until county officials begin to work on the next budget.

The department director downplayed the deficit number on Thursday, saying the agency is meeting its goals.

“I’m not looking to ask for more than one or two [workers],” Taylor said. “So to put, you know, sort of drastic number out there could put people in a reactive frame of mind and I did not mean to do that.”

Taylor cited another reason for not considering asking the county fund more positions.

“I’m not expecting the Shenandoah County community to continue to spiral downward,” Taylor added. “I’m expecting it to improve, so as the economy improves the demand on our services will go down.”

The department didn’t seek to ramp up staff numbers sooner because officials expected the economic slump not to last long, Taylor said. When the economy does improve the department wouldn’t need as many people.

“I wouldn’t go on a hiring spree,” Taylor said. “I’d rather help our economic development guy get some good jobs, so then people just don’t need our services.”

The department still needs a few more employees to help it comply with federal, social services mandates, Taylor said.

More than half of the 23 positions needed would handle the calculation of benefits for clients, Taylor said. At an annual starting salary of about $30,000, 23 positions would cost almost $700,000.

The director went on to say that the staff deficiency reflects a state finding, but does not necessarily reflect the county’s needs or the efforts made by her staff. Taylor said her department doesn’t need that many people because “we are kinda, sorta getting it done, it’s just that we can’t really do it within the confines without overtime going forward.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com