Major BASW survey reveals child protection risks of current system

Seven in ten social workers say they have experienced situations where they have been unable to protect a child because of the constraints of the job they do, according to the findings of a major BASW survey of the profession.

The survey of 1,373 social workers, carried out in conjunction with ITV’s Daybreak breakfast programme, found that 95% of respondents believe they spend too much time on paperwork and not enough with children and families. The result reaffirms the basis of the government’s decision to ask EIleen Munro to investigate ways of reducing bureaucracy within children’s social work and prompted BASW to emphasise the need to spare social work from cuts.

The online BASW survey, carried out during September, also highlighted serious concerns among professionals about the impact of possible spending cuts, with 94% of the view that this will impact negatively on child protection services.

The pressures of child protection work are evident in the 68% of respondents who said the work has caused them ‘emotional or mental instability’, with 45% of these admitting to having taken time off work as a result.

The survey’s publication coincides with the emergence of Professor Munro’s first report, in which the academic makes a range of initial observations about the excessive guidance and bureaucracy professionals have to endure. However, social workers are not yet confident her work will secure positive results, with just 46% suggesting it would improve child protection.

Responding to the findings BASW said it was not surprising that social workers are not yet ready to believe solutions are at hand, pointing to previous failed initiatives and the threat of cuts dominating the public sector landscape.

In a statement the Association added: ‘These survey findings offer a stark illustration of the realities of professional life for social workers throughout the UK. High caseloads, low morale, poor recruitment and retention levels, a damaging and often unfair media depiction and weak or non existent training and supervision.

‘For the sake of the vulnerable people who rely on often extraordinary social work services, including children at risk of serious harm, there must be a massive, sustained political effort to renew the profession. This needs to start with a commitment from the Treasury and from local government not to cut funding for social work services.

‘Social work missed out when health and education received significant investment from the previous government, with clear and damaging consequences, and so cannot now be expected to cope with funding cuts. Instead it needs a clear and continued commitment from policymakers to work towards a stronger profession.’