Union officials have condemned the use of schools staff to perform roles traditionally undertaken by qualified social workers at Calderdale Council.
Community Care understands the support staff at the West Yorkshire authority will go on assessment visits with social workers – although the council has refused to confirm this.
The schools staff will also be asked to carry out administration tasks such as agency checks and information gathering.
The council claims the move will lead to integrated working but the Calderdale branch of Unison has slammed the idea, calling it a “slap in the face” for social workers.
“I’m not saying that our members in schools are not capable of doing the work, but it takes years of training to become a social worker,” said branch secretary Gary Firth.
Some school staff, including a learning mentor and community support manager, have already been assigned to the children’s services initial response team during the summer holidays.
They will work under the guidance and direction of social workers and will not have case holding responsibility, according to the council.
Firth questioned the wisdom of asking unqualified staff to work in such a high pressure environment.
“The council’s time would be better spent recruiting new social workers and ensuring the remaining ones are not overburdened with cases,” he said.
A report by Ofsted earlier this year found ongoing weaknesses in the council’s initial response team, including unallocated cases and inconsistent thresholds.
Inspectors found there had been little improvement since an unannounced inspection in July 2009, which had revealed evidence of children being left “at risk of significant harm over many years”.
But a spokesperson for the council said there were no vacancies in the initial response team and the numbers of staff had actually increased.
“This is a professional development opportunity and will help us to develop and improve interagency working,” said the spokesperson.