Massive rise in care kids leaves Coventry social workers struggling

SOCIAL workers are struggling to cope with the growing numbers of children at risk of abuse and neglect who have been taken into care in Coventry.

Latest figures from December last year show 611 children were in care – a rise of 103 since April 2009.

The city council has predicted at least £15 million would be spent on placing children into care this year, which means an overspend of £6 million paid by the taxpayer since 2008.

Amanda Lamb, the city council’s assistant director of children’s specialist services said a more “proactive approach” in tackling neglect and abuse of younger children was a contributing factor for the rise.

She added that social workers are spending too much time dealing with “complex” reports than spending time with the children.

She said: “It is difficult to be certain that we have the ‘right’ children staying in the care system and with limited social work time we cannot be confident that those children with the greatest need are receiving the support and supervision they require.

“It is now clear that social workers are spending too much time completing complex recording systems and not enough time face to face with children.

“The impact of growing numbers is felt throughout the children’s social care system. We are unable to meet the increased need for in-house foster carers resulting in the rise in spending on external placements.

“The quality of work being carried out with children who require long term support is not as strong as it should be. The most effective way of improving this would be to have a manageable number of children looked after.”

Last December, 42 per cent of care leavers were not in education, employment or training. Amanda said they had little improvement in their “life chances” and “no clear plan for a fulfilling adult life.”

She added: “This leads to the question of the quality of intervention they have received during this time, from all agencies not just social care.

“Young people will often return to their family of origin after lengthy periods in care with no effective work having been undertaken to change the circumstances from which they came. The outcome is often repeated patterns of poor parenting and low expectation in their own adult lives.”

The city council is looking to reduce costs with an Intensive Case Support Panel, a group of managers which meet every fortnight to discuss ways of preventing the need to put children into care, and multi-disciplinary teams who work with families to help resolve their difficulties at an earlier stage.