Children's services 'at breaking point'
26 January 2009
Social workers are struggling to cope because most of the teams they work in have too many vacancies, their caseloads are too heavy and inexperienced staff are being thrown in at the deep end, according to Unison, which has warned that it is "only a matter of time" before there is another Baby P type tragedy.
In its report 'Still slipping through the net? Front-line staff assess children's safeguarding process', the union said that sixty per cent of those who took part in the survey said they work in teams where over 20 per cent of posts are vacant. Also, nearly 60 per cent said that staff who don't have a social work qualification or are newly qualified are now more likely to be doing child protection work than in 2003.
The survey also found that 50 per cent of respondents believe social work services have fewer resources than in 2003 and 33 per cent don't think the system has improved since then.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Our survey shows that the child protection services are a ticking time bomb that could explode at any minute. There are not enough staff, caseloads are too big and social workers are spending 80 per cent of their time on paperwork. That is a lethal combination that will leave children exposed. Without decisive action it is only a matter of time before there is another tragedy."
Margaret Eaton, chair of the Local Government Association, said the survey highlighted the real problems involved in recruiting and retaining high calibre child social worker staff. "People make a positive choice to work with the most vulnerable children because they want to make a difference," she said, "but, if we're not careful, we'll create a climate in which the costs of entering this area of public service so massively outweigh the benefits that we will force good potential entrants to the children's workforce to think again."
• Haringey has asked other London councils to lend it social workers because recruiting staff is a major problem, according to e-mails leaked to the Guardian. Haringey begged 30 London boroughs to lend a "good quality" social worker for a month to help the council get through a "real pinch point" of assessing cases of suspected abuse. Most boroughs are said to have refused, experiencing staff shortages themselves.
I agree, it took more than the Government stated Guidelines before a S/Worker came to Risk Assess our daughter from her older brother-complaints were put in in June 08 but still we are waiting.An outrage for so many familes! Our GP was disgusted with our Child Protection Team!
Rachel Garvey - East Yorkshire