Managers ‘Must Help Social Workers’

Children and young people’s service heads need to get away from the office and deal with service users at the sharp end much more than they do at present, according to Children’s Secretary Ed Balls.

The suggestion is that managers would be able to provide much needed support for inexperienced social workers with massive caseloads, which have been partly to blame for mistakes being made in recent child abuse cases such as Baby P.

In a speech to senior children’s services professionals, Balls said: “I want to see all social care managers regularly ‘going back to the floor’ and working alongside their staff to handle case files and spend time with children and families.”

Claiming that the government had done all it can to put policies into place to help protect vulnerable children, Balls said that councils still had to do more to make reforms work in practice. However, the latest analysis by the Audit Commission showed that most councils who lost stars in their assessments did so because of deteriorating child protection services.

Balls also hinted at a review of how social services staff were trained and said he was looking at introducing a masters degree in social work practice.

Stressing that there was always a balance the government had to strike between being “too heavy handed” and damaging morale when it intervened in social services, Balls said of his involvement in the Baby P case: “When I took the action that was needed, there was still a sense among certain sections of the profession that my actions were fuelled by the media. I believe I did the right thing and I would do exactly the same thing again.”