Thousands of social workers needed to implement Laming

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As many as 6,300 extra social workers are needed to implement just one of the recommendations made by Lord Laming in the wake of the Baby P case, new research has found.

A study by Loughborough University, commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), has examined the implications for councils of implementing all 58 recommendations made in Laming’s report, The Protection of Children in England: a Progress Report.

Early findings show that one recommendation – that social services should carry out an initial assessment following any referral from another professional, such as a police officer or health worker – would lead to a 300% increase in the number of initial assessments some teams would have to do, at a cost of almost £250m.

The LGA has said that the thousands of extra social workers needed is “not practically possible at current staffing levels.”

Councillor Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA’s children and young People board, said:

“It would be irresponsible to pretend that there are no financial implications for proposed changes to how we protect children. There is no magic wand which can quickly produce thousands more qualified, expert social workers. The danger in the meantime is that increasing workloads drive more hard-working social workers to the limit of their endurance.”

Other findings from the report, due to be published in the next two weeks, include reluctance from other agencies to take the lead on the common assessment framework (CAF) and difficulties engaging GPs and health visitors. “Automatic” referrals from police on cases involving domestic violence and drug and alcohol misuse was also putting pressure on child protection teams.

The “low status” of social workers in court was also effecting court decisions with many local authorities claiming it was a factor in refused care applications. Social workers were also expected to wait in court all day unlike other expert witnesses the report found.

Statistics from the report:

  • 63% of social workers have seen an increase in caseloads over the last six months
  • 65% of councils report vacancies on intake and referral teams, with one third covered by agency staff
  • About three quarters of an average working week for social workers is taken up with paperwork
  • Social workers receive, on average, seven training days in a year. Supervision sessions are focused on case planning rather than challenges of practice, professional development and welfare needs.
  • Less than half (43%) of councils felt local police had a “good” understanding of thresholds.

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