Swansea council plans to recruit 35 new social workers after the deaths of three teenagers in the area.
On the day the executive summaries of serious case reviews into all three cases were published, Chris Maggs, chair of Swansea Safeguarding Children Board, told Community Care that social workers were currently struggling with too heavy caseloads.
“Caseloads have to be addressed,” he said. “We had approximately 15 vacancies and we’re planning to create 20 additional positions on top of that to fill this need.”
The council has already been the first in Wales to receive an intervention board, but Maggs said he was unable to discuss the outcome of this intervention until later this week, when the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales is due to publish its recommendation.
More effective training
As well as the need to improve child protection procedures, information sharing and joint working between agencies, the serious case reviews highlighted the need to train social workers to work more effectively with adolescents.
All three subjects of the serious case reviews were 16-years-old when they died and David Spicer, author of two of the reports, said this emphasised the increasing need for better working with this age group.
“Both reports highlighted the particular difficulties for staff working to safeguard adolescents who either refuse to accept involvement or actively undermine attempts to improve their lives. This calls for good training and well coordinated involvement from all agencies,” he said.
Spicer said this training was more important than ever, as the 11- to 17-year-old age group was increasingly becoming the subjects of SCRs.
“The most vulnerable group has always been under 12 months in terms of death, but that’s changed – the adolescent group is just as vulnerable now. That’s because they engage in risky behaviour such as taking drugs and drinking alcohol, which is something that wasn’t an issue before.”
Spicer said Swansea had introduced specific training to address this problem.
Two of the SCRs found the young people had died as the result of drug overdoses, one of whom had been known to social services up until the end of her life. The third case was a suicide. This young person and her family had also been known to a number of agencies throughout her life.