British Association of Social Workers chief executive Hilton Dawson has vowed to present children’s secretary Ed Balls with a ‘stark message’ about the parlous conditions facing child protection social workers at a meeting this Monday.
Dawson said he would present Balls with evidence of the pressures facing child protection practitioners from his current tour of the country, and tell the Cabinet minister that it will only be through listening to the frontline that children can be better protected.
He said social workers had told him about:-
- Massive caseloads of up to 50 complex child protection cases.
- “A complete dearth” of clerical support.
- Teams being chronically under strength and unable to fill vacancies, resulting in long hours and weekend working.
- Poor IT systems and other office resources.
- Practitioners being unable to visit children and families because they are sat at computers complying with management requirements to demonstrate they are meeting performance targets.
- Work cultures which set out to prevent staff from speaking out.
- Other professions not backing up social workers in protecting children.
- Politicians and management not listening to social workers or addressing problems on the ground.
He added: “It is always difficult for government at any level to listen to uncomfortable messages particularly when they are already taking some action to address the perceived problems.”
Dawson said he expected Balls to refer him to the work of the Social Work Task Force, which is examining how the profession’s standing can be raised, and the government’s child protection action plan initiated on the back of Lord Laming’s recent review.
But he said more needed to be done. Dawson said he would specifically ask Balls to instruct every English council to work with BASW to listen to the views of child protection social workers and report back by the end of September with a statement of issues for consideration by the taskforce and for immediate local action.