Wakefield social workers struggling in wake of Baby P case

OVERSTRETCHED social workers in Wakefield are struggling to cope with a huge rise in referrals since the shocking Baby P case, a council report has revealed.

The report, which was due to be considered by Wakefield Council’s cabinet on Tuesday before it was deferred, said there were 338 initial child protection case conferences held in 2008-09, compared with 273 in 2007-08.

It said there had been an average of 12 vacant social worker posts, and five children and family support worker posts since January 2009 – and that the employment of new staff had been cancelled out by those leaving.

It also said sickness levels within the six family support teams were up 15 per cent in March this year, and up almost 18 per cent among initial response team staff.

The report said: “The public response to the case of Baby P has had an ongoing impact on the safeguarding activity within the Wakefield district.

“The frontline child protection services like social care direct, initial response teams and family support teams are operating at capacity, which has significant risks to the local authority if high rates of referrals continue.”

Haringey Council in London came under heavy fire after the death of Baby P, who suffered abuse at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s brother.

The cost to Wakefield Council of implementing recommendations made for all councils in response to the case will be £400,000.

The money is needed for seven extra social workers, one-and-a-half administrative support officers and additional running costs that would arise.