A senior social worker has called on Tim Loughton to protect the profession from spending cuts after the minister spent a week shadowing his frontline colleagues.
Stockport Council’s head of children’s social care, Dominic Tumelty, was speaking after Loughton’s extended visit to the authority last week, arranged to improve the Tory minister’s understanding of child protection services at a busy metropolitan council.
“We were very keen to have the minister here because we wanted to show the positive job that social workers are doing in difficult circumstances,” Tumelty said.
He added that councils, which are already having to find more than £1bn in efficiency savings this year, were anxiously awaiting the government’s comprehensive spending review, due on 20 October.
“If [the visit] gains another ounce of steel in the comprehensive spending review, that someone is going to defend us a bit more, then all well and good,” Tumelty said.
“Referral rates are increasing, workloads are increasing and we need someone to fight our corner.”
During the visit to Stockport, Loughton, the children’s minister with responsibility for children’s social work in England, went out with social workers on home visits, attended meetings to discuss referrals, and even played pool with a ten-year-old boy in the authority’s care – and lost.
Managers at Stockport Council, which has only one vacancy out of a total of 69 social workers, volunteered to facilitate Loughton’s visit following a request from the Department for Education after receiving two glowing reports from Ofsted this year.
The council’s fostering and adoption services were recently rated as outstanding, while an unannounced inspection of contact and referral arrangements in children’s social care highlighted a comprehensive range of training opportunities available to social workers and regular supervision, “all of which contributes to maintaining a stable and committed workforce”.
Tumelty, who qualified as a social worker in 1989, said all practitioners are expected to complete a post-qualifying award within two years of joining the council, while experienced staff are encouraged to take the lead on particular subject areas such as domestic violence and partnerships with schools.
“There’s a really good culture of people in Stockport of experienced people helping less experienced people on complex cases and to provide reflective supervision – we’re not one of those employers who say ‘let them sink or swim’,” Tumelty added. “We help them and give people armbands.”
The inspection also highlighted a need to simplify the council’s electronic case recording system, which is currently being reviewed and a new version due to be launched in the next three months.
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