Headlines: January 27th, 2009

A local government leader has warned of the danger of allowing the costs of working in children’s social care to outweigh the benefits for staff. Margaret Eaton, the chair of the Local Government Association, was responding to the results of a survey by UNISON which pointed to high levels of unfilled posts in care teams.

UNISON found sixty per cent of those who took part in the study were working in teams where more than a fifth of jobs were vacant and three quarters of respondents said their caseloads had increased in the last five years. Almost sixty per cent of staff who were newly qualified or who had no social work qualification were more likely to be doing child protection work. Half of those questioned believed social work services were less well resourced than in 2003.

The union’s General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said, “Our survey shows that the Child Protection Services are a ticking time bomb that could explode at any minute. There are not enough staff, caseloads are too big and social workers are spending 80 per cent of their time on paperwork. That is a lethal combination that will leave children exposed.”

Councillor Eaton said the survey showed there were real difficulties for councils in recruiting and retaining high calibre child social worker staff. “People make a positive choice to work with the most vulnerable children because they want to make a difference, but, if we’re not careful, we’ll create a climate in which the costs of entering this area of public service so massively outweigh the benefits that we will force good potential entrants to the children’s workforce to think again,” she said.