Child Protection Boss Call To Social Workers

NOTTINGHAM’S new head of children’s services says social workers should bypass their managers and go to him with concerns about their cases.

The Post this week revealed six cases where children died or were seriously injured from abuse or neglect after failings by child protection workers.

Two babies murdered by their fathers and another accidentally suffocated in 2006 and 2007 were among those cases.

But Ian Curryer, who took over as the city council’s acting Corporate Director for Children’s Services this month, said services had improved since then.

He said £6.5m has been invested in social care since 2006 and that the department is now fully staffed by full-time and agency workers.

He said: “I have written to every frontline social worker, even those working for partner agencies, to say if you have concerns about any of your cases that we are not following procedure please come to me direct. They can bypass their managers and talk to me. I have not had a single person come back to me since then. This is a strong indication that people in the workforce feel that things have moved on.”

The council’s children’s services department was given an improved status of ‘adequate’ by Ofsted yesterday

The leadership of the Nottingham Safeguarding Children Board was praised by inspectors.

But workers were criticised for a drop in the number of assessments completed on time. Jean Thorpe, Unison steward for children’s services in Nottingham, claimed yesterday that children were as much at risk now as in 2006. She said the complexity of cases and problems with the new IT system meant social workers had unmanageably high caseloads.

Mr Curryer denied the claims, but admitted there were “still issues to resolve” about the IT system.

He said: “That is something that still takes up too much of social workers’ time but it doesn’t mean we are not having contact with our children.

“One of the challenges is that we have seen a 40% rise in referrals since the case of Baby P [the baby boy who died in Haringey, London] that is putting extra pressure on staff. We are putting extra resources in.”

There are currently no Serious Case Reviews – reports of children seriously injured by abuse or neglect – ongoing in Nottingham.

Mr Curryer said the recommendations made from four of the six previous reviews had all been carried out, with the remaining points to be completed by next year.

He said ultimate responsibility for any failings lay with the corporate director and the lead councillor for children’s services.

But he said: “Three of the reviews said things could have been done better but they were not on a scale requiring someone to lose their job. If that action had been warranted the serious case review would have recommended that.”