ADCS: Child protection furore should keep social work jobs safe

Recent publicity around child protection failings should keep frontline social work jobs safe from mounting town hall redundancies triggered by the recession, directors have said.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services pointed to the links between child protection problems identified in councils including Haringey and Doncaster and high vacancy levels and retention problems.

Last month’s highly critical joint area review into Haringey children’s services, following the Baby P case, found social workers faced “heavy caseloads” and 40% of social work posts were filled by agency staff.

Doncaster crisis

And this week, the interim children’s director at Doncaster, Dr Paul Gray, told Community Care its children’s services department faced a “crisis” in 2007-8 when some teams had vacancies of 40%.

Debbie Jones (pictured) , chair of ADCS’s resources and sustainability policy committee, said these cases “should strengthen the hand of senior children’s services managers in discussions about staffing budgets”.

The claim followed a Local Government Association survey this week which revealed that one in seven English councils has already been forced to cut staff as a result of the economic downturn, while one in five have had to impose recruitment freezes. An increasing number of authorities are also planning to make hundreds of redundancies in an attempt to balance their budgets.

Awareness of impact on children

Jones said: “Local politicians and senior management should be very aware of the impact that redundancies would have on a local authority’s ability to keep children safe.”

Her case was backed up by Nottingham Council, which has said it may have to cut 400 jobs, saving £12m, in part because of the need for “significant investment” in child protection.

Newcastle Council also announced last year that it planned to shed 270 management jobs as part of proposals to save £20m a year.

Several financial pressures

LGA chair Margaret Eaton said that councils were facing financial pressures from a number of fronts, including the collapse of the housing market, increased efficiency savings and losses through frozen Icelandic bank accounts. She said: “The credit crunch and the recession are causing a decline in income and an ever greater demand for essential services such as help for the homeless and increased support for local businesses.”

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