The government’s £23m grant to relieve pressure on social work teams is too small to cope with the demands facing children’s services, employers have warned.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services said the local social work improvement fund may assist some councils to deal with rising referrals but warned there was “no quick fix” while one in 10 posts remained vacant.
The £23m grant was announced by the Department for Children, Schools and Families this week as part of the government’s action plan to transform social work in England over the next 10 years.
The DCSF said the grant would be “flexible” but suggested possible uses such as creating roles to keep experienced staff on the frontline and developing early intervention support for children and families.
The concerns of the ADCS were echoed by the Local Government Association, which said much greater increases were needed in local authority settlement funding to help strengthen child safeguarding services.
“Every resource makes a difference and we wouldn’t wish to sound ungrateful,” said Dave Hill, policy lead on social work reform for ADCS. “But £23m is hardly going to make a big dent in the capacity problems children’s services are experiencing up and down the country.
“Expectations on social care departments have gone up ever since the Baby P court case in November 2008, and we have had to deal with an increase in referrals of 30%-40%.
Ian Keating, senior policy consultant at the LGA, said the association would be lobbying ministers for more council funding. “Though we would never say no to this money, we don’t think one-off bits of funding is the answer,” he said.
Hill, who is also director of children’s services at Croydon Council in London, said he would consider using his authority’s share of the funding to develop a social work academy and urged other directors to take a medium to long-term approach.
“I would be sympathetic towards employers who are running a department where the pressure has brought the service to its knees and they needed to bring in agency workers to address the problem. But broadly the solutions to building up capacity and skills are ones that will come over a number of years.”