In recent posts, we have been looking at issues related to workloads. A report published in the UK a few days ago reaffirms that children remain at risk whne caseloads are too high or staffing inadequate to handle the cases.
It also raises an important area of debate - when high profile child abuse cases occur, referrals of new cases will soar. This adds to the workload and delays appropriate assessment. High profile cases will bring many marginal referrals for sure - but who can tell without an assessment.
Staffing is expesnive and the more limits put on staffing, the longer it will take cases to be seen and the more cursory will be some of those reviews. In the current economic crisis around the globe, the more we will see budget limitations. In turn this will lead to children being left in unsafe conditions. In turn there will be another high profile death. It is an ever repeating spiral.
What we are not doing is coming to grips with the real issues of the degree to which society wants and is willing to pay for child protection.
The UK Story:
Vulnerable children put at risk due to social worker shortage
by political editor Paul Francis
Vulnerable children in Kent are being put at risk of harm because it is taking too long to assess them and there are not enough social workers, inspectors have warned.
The county council has been ordered by Ofsted to take urgent steps to address the issue following an unannounced visit by inspectors.
Following the visit, Ofsted has told KCC it must sort out staffing and management issues.
In a letter setting out the findings, Ofsted inspector Brendan Parkinson states: "Some children in need do not recieve an adequate and timely assessment of risks and needs, leaving them at risk of harm. A significant shortfall in the capacity of qualified, experienced social workers and weaknesses in the quality of team manager oversight on child protection cases in some duty and assessment teams contribute to these serious concerns."
The watchdog carried out an unannounced inspection last month.
The report will make worrying reading for the authority, which has struggled to attract social workers and has increasingly looked abroad to recruit staff. Ofsted has told the council it will probably rate children's social services as performing poorly when the next performance ratings are made. KCC has previously been a top rated authority.
In addition to the "priority action" area, Ofsted also called for improvements in arrangements for prevention and early intervention, more in-depth risk assessments and better integration in the way children's records were kept.
In a statement, KCC managing director for children's services Rosalind Turner said: "The priority action refers to making sure there are timely assessments in all cases, but acknowledges the pressure our social care teams are under.
"This is due to the significantly increasing number of referrals while we are also carrying vacancies in social workers.
"KCC continues to run successful recruitment campaigns to increase the strength of our teams, but there is still a shortfall in the overall establishment. This is a national issue and we recognise its seriousness. We are absolutely committed to ensuring safeguarding and good outcomes for all our children and young people."
The shortage of social workers is not a problem just for Kent which, in common with other authorities, has recorded a dramatic rise in child protection referrals since the publicity surrounding a series of high-profile child abuse cases.
Referrals rose by 22 per cent in Kent last year to 17,360 - an increase of more than 5,000.
Vacancy rates at the start of the year in some child protection teams were as high as 40 per cent.
Cllr Trudy Dean, opposition Liberal Democrat leader at KCC, said: "Clearly, it is a very serious issue because if you are a child in danger, that danger increases if there are delays in assessing your needs."
Friday, September 10 2010 Kent Online - Retrieved Sept 15/10 at http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2010/september/10/vulnerable_kids_put_at_risk.aspx