A new survey has revealed that 80% of social workers who work with children say child protection thresholds have risen over the past year. This has made it harder for them to intervene and protect children from neglect and abuse.
Over half a million children in England were referred to social care last year, nearly 53,000 children were subjects of a child protection plan and in excess of 375,000 were assessed as children in need.
Six hundred social workers were surveyed by Community Care magazine, 88% of whom said that budget cuts in their area had left children at increased risk of abuse. Nearly a third said thresholds for sexual abuse had risen in their council, while 31% said this of physical abuse and 78% said thresholds for neglect had risen.
The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) says that diminishing resources, increasing demands and heightened media security are responsible for putting social workers under an immense amount of pressure.
Andrew Webb, President of the ADCS, said: 'Budget cuts of over £2.7bn to local government has put a phenomenal amount of pressure on everyone working in local government, but as directors of children's services, we need to ensure that our social workers have the professional confidence and decision making skills to ensure every child receives the services they need to protect them from harm regardless of their age.'
The survey also highlights that older children and teenagers were deemed most likely to be overlooked by the child protection system. Mr Webb continued: 'As recent high-profile cases have reminded us, children in the 14 - 16 age group are just as vulnerable to abuse and exploitation as younger children, and pro-active work must be undertaken to protect them from coming to harm.'
Ruth Smith, editor of Community Care, commented in an editorial piece that the survey's responses were disturbing.
'Social workers have issued a cry for help. By responding to our survey, they are blowing the whistle on poor practice, not of their own making, but on a system that is under-resourced and doesn't allow professionals to do what they are trained for.
The majority of social workers do not receive counselling to help them deal with the difficult and disturbing cases they encounter at work. They should. Police officers working on the same cases do.'