Baby P case sparks £58m drive for ‘top quality’ social workers

Top graduates will be hired as social workers to protect the most vulnerable children under a multi-million-pound drive announced in the wake of the Baby P case today.

Children’s Secretary Ed Balls announced that an extra £58million would be spent on training new social workers and convincing those who have left the profession to return to the job over the next two years. The money will also fund conversion courses for 200 of the highest achieving graduates with degrees in any subject to train.

Councils are already being forced to offer higher salaries to attract child protection staff after the national outcry over the death of the toddler in Haringey damaged recruitment.

Mr Balls said: “Our ambition is for social work to be a high quality profession with the confidence of the public.”

The minister was setting out the Government’s detailed response to Lord Laming’s inquiry into child protection which followed the death of Baby P. Aged 17 months, Baby Peter died after suffering months of abuse and neglect at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger in August 2007. He had been on Haringey’s at-risk register and was found in his bloodied cot with more than 50 injuries.

Last week, the 32-year-old boyfriend of Baby Peter’s mother was found guilty of raping a girl aged two, who was also on the council’s child protection list.

Haringey’s director of children’s services Sharon Shoesmith was sacked along with four other staff in the wake of the scandal. Her replacement Peter Lewis is being paid almost £200,000, while children’s service manager posts in the borough have been advertised at nearly £70,000.

The Government’s reforms include:

● A new child protection czar, Sir Roger Singleton, will report to Parliament

● All local safeguarding children’s boards, which review child protection work in every council area, will appoint two members of the public

● Newly qualified social workers will get more support, and a new Masters qualification will be introduced in 2011.

Ministers will also introduce new targets for child protection. The details are not yet decided but the Conservatives fear they will lead to more red tape and stop social workers doing their jobs.