Hammersmith & Fulham Council boosts child protection by £1.3m
HAMMERSMITH and Fulham Council has been forced to find an extra £1.3million to bolster child protection in the borough, after a surge in social work cases in the wake of the death of Baby P.
Early ‘front door’ assessments of families by social workers have risen by between 20 and 30 per cent since November 2008, when two people were convicted in connection with the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, known as Baby P.
The case caused national outcry and led all statutory agencies involved in child protection to tighten their monitoring and reporting of children at risk of harm.
Consequently, the number of children on the borough’s child protection list this year rose from 121 to 200.
Child protection cases can take up to two years to assess, monitor and process.
To meet the unexpected demand, the council has hired 11 new social workers to carry out frontline assessments of a child’s family situation.
Nine full-time staff who left their posts in the aftermath of the nationwide furore caused by the Baby P case, have also been replaced.
Councillor Sarah Gore, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “This radical shift in resourcing reaffirms our commitment to supporting the most vulnerable children. Council tax cuts in Hammersmith and Fulham have not been at the expense of our most vulnerable residents.”
Lord Laming’s review of children’s services commissioned last year in the wake of the Baby P case, concluded that child protection services across the country had not been giving the ‘priority they deserved’ and were often hampered by local bureaucracy.
In response, the council conducted a review of its services which this week received cross-party support at a cabinet meeting to approve the funding increase.
The extra money has been drawn from the council’s £14.8m reserves and more than £600,000 savings from 31 jobs cuts in the children’s services department – including several social workers who help promote fostering in the borough.
The review found: * Reports to the council about children have risen from 590 (Oct 2008) to 700 each month. * Initial assessments of cases have increased from 106 to 127 each month. * In-depth assessments of the most serious cases are up from 40 to 53 each month. * There is a chronic shortage of foster carers in the borough, with more than two thirds of children being placed in other London boroughs or elsewhere in the country.The new money will be spent on social workers (£838,000), court fees incurred during care proceedings (£660,00) and to pay for fostering (£155,000).
If demand on children’s services continues, spending forecasts suggest the council may need to budget £2.5m more by 2011-12.