The South Carolina Department of Social Services says it needs an additional $32.6 million in next year’s budget to hire more caseworkers and improve the agency. Director Susan Alford told a state Senate budget subcommittee Wednesday the agency wants to hire 158 new employees next year. Lawmakers gave the agency additional money this year to hire 177 more people.
The request comes after months of investigation by a Senate special subcommittee, which found that some caseworkers were handling more than 100 cases, when DSS’s goal is 24.
“We had a worker in Richland that had 168 cases,” Alford told senators. “And one of the things that’s challenging about that is looking at how it is that one worker could end up having that many cases and then other workers only have 30 or 40. So we have gone in at least trying to look at how it is, in the interim, until we can get new workers on the ground, how it is that we can try to redistribute those numbers more effectively.”
She says there are still five workers with more than 100 cases, three in Spartanburg and one each in Richland and Lexington counties.
Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, who’s on the budget subcommittee and also the subcommittee that’s been investigating DSS, says, “Because of what happened in previous years, DSS was run into the ground and children died because of that. And when government allows that to happen, then we have failed miserably. So yeah, I think if 158 new positions will help protect children and vulnerable adults, I’m going to vote to fund all 158 of them.”
The requested budget increase would also pay for raises for employees as a way to prevent turnover. The agency had a turnover rate of 39 percent last year. Some of the money would also be used to pay off student loans or pay for college tuition, another method of retaining new employees.