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Social workers' morale 'hits rock bottom' after Baby P

Date:6 AUG 2009

Unison, the union representing 40,000 social workers, has warned that morale has hit rock bottom as vacancies for social workers were standing at "a danger level" of 12 percent across the Britain.

Following baby Peter's death, the number of calls to social services has risen and more children are being referred to the courts, with the additional paperwork that goes with it. The union is calling on councils to give social workers the time they need to spend with their clients.

Unison has produced a ten-point improvement plan for change, aimed at delivering safer ways of protecting vulnerable children. It draws on the direct experience of social workers who are responsible for helping families through their problems.

The plan's recommendations include co-working on all cases, introducing national caseload management standards, cull of bureaucracy, re-establishing homecare services and increasing staff levels.

Unison is also concerned about the impact of the recent hike in court fees that local authorities must pay. The union are calling for a review of the decision on fee levels and of Cafcass's funding and capacity to ensure that resource constraints are not influencing legal proceedings and outcomes.

General Secretary Dave Prentis said that social workers spend only 20% of their time with the families and children who need their support, with the rest spent on paperwork.

"We need to re-think the way that child protection services are delivered. We owe that to baby Peter and to every social worker struggling to deliver a good and safe service," he said.

"Just last week the social work taskforce quite rightly identified the multitude of problems that social workers face in delivering a good service against the odds. One action point that councils can take on now is to fill those vacancies and give staff the means to do their job safely.

"There are already problems recruiting and retaining social workers so we cannot afford to lose any more. We need to see long term solutions, not quick fixes such as recruiting social workers from abroad or trying to tempt retired social workers back into the profession," Mr Prentis added.