More training for social services bosses after Baby P tragedy

Training for social services managers must be overhauled under plans to be unveiled today in the wake of the Baby P scandal.

Half of all directors of children’s services will be enrolled on new training courses by autumn next year, the Children’s Secretary Ed Balls will say. He will also outline plans to set up a “cadre” of long-serving senior managers who can coach their less-experienced colleagues around the country.

Council leaders warned that efforts to improve children’s services were under threat because thousands of social work posts were unfilled. An estimated one in 10 social workers – about 3,000 jobs – remain unfilled at any time.

Mr Balls will unveil the measures as Lord Laming publishes a wide-ranging review into children’s services, commissioned in the aftermath of the death of Baby P, who died despite being visited 60 times by welfare professionals. Lord Laming’s review is expected to back the current structure of child protection services but call for tough action to ensure all local authorities meet the standards of the best councils.

Under plans to be announced by Mr Balls later today, the National College for School Leadership, which trains headteachers, will expand its role to provide training courses for council directors of children’s services, the key officials who run education and local child protection services. The first courses will start later this year.

Margaret Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “There are real difficulties for councils in recruiting and retaining high-calibre child social worker staff. If lessons are to be learned, then we must look to the future and recruit and retain staff so that they can protect the most vulnerable children in society. In the short term, we must encourage up to 5,000 recently retired child social work professionals back to the front line to help keep children safe. Striving to maintain the status quo is not nearly good enough. As a nation we must reduce the number of children suffering abuse and neglect, and seek to eliminate the uncommon but tragic cases where children die as a result.”

The Conservatives have proposed a “high-impact” advertising campaign to put recruitment to social work alongside teaching and the armed forces.

Mr Balls said: “Social workers do a vital but tough job, often under difficult circumstances – but there are real challenges around leadership, retention and career progression. If we are to deliver a world-class child protection system, we need excellent leadership and clear accountability at every level of the system.”