Probe launched after social worker revelations

A probe has been launched into revelations that Cardiff council social workers fear a child could die because of staff shortages and high caseloads.

The five-week inquiry by the Children’s and Young People Scrutiny Committee will hear from frontline social workers, as well as senior managers.

Union leaders and other relevant organisations, such as the Care Council for Wales, will also be invited to give evidence at the private hearings.

The committee will report back with its findings and recommendations to the Liberal-Democrat/Plaid Cymru executive body on January 10.

As reported last week, social workers in the council’s Intake and Assessment Team fear “unmanageable” caseloads could result in a child’s death. Leaked minutes of a staff meeting showed the I&A Team are suffering “stress”, “very low morale” and feel senior managers haven’t taken onboard their concerns.

The first of five evidence sessions will be on November 24. Committee chairman Bill Kelloway said the swiftness of the inquiry reflected the urgency of the concerns raised.

The cross-party inquiry will evaluate the current case workload of the I&A Team, its management and the prioritisation and distribution of cases across staff.

It will also look at how other authorities across England and Wales have dealt with the rise in reports to children’s services since the death of Baby P 2007. Coun Kelloway said if the task and finish group uncovered resources issues, their recommendations could be incorporated into next year’s budget. He said: “The matter is of an urgent nature because if the information contained in the minutes has foundation, then it would merit the executive having to take appropriate action and that action should be sooner rather than later.

“We have to go into this with an open mind, hear both sides of the story and make recommendations. All of the witnesses need to feel we are not going into this predisposed.

“We will only make a judgement after hearing evidence from all of the witnesses.”

Welcoming the inquiry, Labour councillor Ralph Cook, a member of the task and finish group, said: “I have had concerns over many years from private communication with social workers. I am concerned that Cardiff does not experience another child death.”

The revelations were made in the minutes of a meeting, held in September, between 16 social workers and social work assistants.

In one case, a social worker was dealing with 49 cases at one time – more than three times the number of cases normally recommended.

The minutes also claim the situation had “deteriorated” since staff raised concerns in a letter – dated from February – sent to senior managers.