Headlines: March 3rd, 2009

A campaign is being launched today to recruit more specialist social workers to reduce the chances of a child dying from abuse or neglect. It is the first national campaign to respect, recruit and retain children’s social workers and aims, as a first step, to attract 5,000 recently retired staff back into the profession.

The campaign is being run by the Local Government Association, which is publishing ‘Respect and Protect’, a report showing one in ten child social worker posts vacant at any time, 89 per cent of those local authorities which have recruitment difficulties, reporting trouble recruiting experienced children’s social workers and that about 5,500 child social workers are agency staff.

Council leaders will highlight the fact that although there have been consistent improvements in recruitment and retention, problems remain. They are concerned that the death of Baby P will lead to a decline in respect for child social workers, a wave of departures from the profession and a difficulty in attracting new candidates. That, they fear, will increase the risk of a case of child abuse being missed.

A survey by the LGA, the Improvement and Development Agency and the Local Government Employers found two thirds of councils had problems recruiting children’s social workers and forty per cent reported difficulty in keeping them. Margaret Eaton, the chair of the LGA, said, “If lessons are to be learned, then we must look to the future and recruit and retain staff so that they can protect the most vulnerable children in society. In the short term we must encourage up to 5,000 recently retired child social work professionals back to the front line to help keep children safe.”

The LGA is planning in the coming weeks to set out measures it believes will help and which will increase respect for child social workers to close what it calls ‘the gaps in the child protection safety net.’