Social services staff deserting children’s services

The case of Baby Peter (Peter Connolly who died aged 17 months while on the at risk register of Haringey Children’s Services) is having major ramifications throughout the social services sector.

Not only are many local authorities diverting money away from care services for the elderly and disabled and pumping it into children’s services – resulting in hundreds of job losses in some cases – but social workers are walking away from the profession as more is demanded of them for less return.

A survey by the Local Government Association Group found that 60 per cent of councils are struggling to hold on to social workers who protect children, up from 40 per cent a year ago. This is more than double the number of councils reporting retention problems for adult social work, the LGA said, and is happening despite children’s social workers being offered various sweeteners.

These include a training academy set up by Hertfordshire County Council which offers reduced case-loads and specialist training to 30 newly qualified social workers a year, a free return-to-work course by West Sussex County Council for social workers, and more than 30 new children’s social work posts being created by Liverpool City Council.

Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People board, said: “Children’s social workers protect thousands of children from neglect and abuse on a daily basis, but these dedicated staff have been put through the mill. The vilification of children’s social workers has increased the risk of harm to some children by opening up gaps in the safety net which works so hard to protect them.

“People who care about the safety of children should understand that social workers are the solution, not the problem. During the past 12 months too many social workers have clearly decided the strain of this difficult work is more than they can handle. The commitment of those who have remained must not be underestimated.”