More Yorkshire child protection workers is ‘unrealistic’

URGENT calls for the immediate recruitment of more child protection social workers in Leeds is an “unrealistic ambition” because of a lack of qualified people, according to a council chief.

The interim director of children’s services, Sandie Keene, says it will take two years to recruit the extra staff needed.

Her comments follow a report from a council scrutiny committee last month which said existing staff are struggling with an increasing caseload.

The committee called for the council to recruit an extra 42 social workers and six more managers.

In a response, Ms Keene says that work is ongoing to reduce caseloads by creating 25 new advanced practitioner posts, eight of which have been filled.

An extra £6.2m is going into the budget for children and young people’s social care.

But, says the director, the extra staff demanded by the scrutiny committee “would be an unrealistic ambition given the limitations of the supply of qualified social workers currently available”.

Instead, the 2010/11 budget is for a two-year recruitment plan.

In a separate report, the council has drawn up an improvement plan following criticisms of child protection services by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

The report says “unacceptably high” caseloads and too few managers should be tackled immediately.

Within three months, the council has promised to ensure children and parents know how to make complaints and also to improve child protection training for partner agency staff.

Within six months, the council will find out why there is such a high proportion of children who are the subject of a child protection plan for two or more years.

Within six months, the council also says that a paediatrician will be on call 24-hours a day to support child protection medical examinations.