Crisis In The Social Work Field ‘Is Fault Of The Media’

Media criticism of Essex social workers has created recruitment problems for the service, a chief officer admitted this week. Doctor Carey Bennet, recently appointed head of the county council’s new schools, children and families service, told the Yellow Advertiser the press coverage made it harder to recruit social workers.

The media spotlight turned on a Brentwood couple’s battle to prevent their two children being adopted compulsorily.

The case received extensive national coverage in the last two years and has also been raised in the House of Commons.

OFSTED inspectors highlighted the recruitment problem after their annual performance assessment of county council services for children and young people.

In a letter to Liz Railton, the then head of children’s services, dated November 1 2006, inspectors said ‘the council is experiencing significant difficulties in recruiting social workers which reduces its capacity to improve the quality of social care’, adding it was an area of concern.

They also said problem led to fewer young people being allocated a qualified social worker.

Dr Bennet said: “Recruitment problems are easing, but bad publicity did have an effect – it would be nice to see a few good news stories about the authority.

“Social workers have a very difficult job. I take my hat off to them. They do not make decisions to take children into care, or to offer them for adoption, that is done by the courts on workers’ recommendations.”

Ms Railton has since left the council to become programme director of Together for Children, a voluntary/private sector partnership.