Vacancy rates in NHS child protection posts are rising dramatically a survey of local safeguarding children boards has found.
The survey, by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, found that more than one in 10 safeguarding nursing posts (11%) and doctor posts (14%) were vacant in 2011 while more than one-fifth (22%) of posts dedicated to the health of children in care were vacant.
The figures have jumped from 2009 when vacancy rates amongst nursing posts were 5%, doctor posts were 3.8% and children-in-care posts were 19%. A third of LSCB chairs felt the current vacancies had reduced the effectiveness of the advice given by health professionals in child protection cases while 24% felt that the current health reforms had reduced the influence such professionals had on decision making.
More than half said the role should be commissioned by the new Health and Wellbeing Boards in the future so that they had an overview of local circumstances and priorities.
Health and Wellbeing Boards will be responsible for public health and are likely to come under the control of local government under the current proposed health reforms.
Commenting on the findings, Matt Dunkley, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services said there was a strong argument for transferring safeguarding professionals to the new Health and Wellbeing Boards so health professionals could continue to build partnerships with local authorities.
“Despite many Primary Care Trusts saying that safeguarding is a priority, posts are still going unfilled, leaving health commissioners with no-one to turn for advice about keeping children safe. In other areas, professionals do not have enough time to dedicate to child protection and are being asked to undertake other roles, such as safeguarding adults, as well.”
The results are published as the Department for Education and the Department for Health are shortly due to publish a work programme outlining how the Munro Reforms will be included in the current health reforms.
Jeanette Pugh, head of safeguarding at the Department for Education, admitted they were supposed to publish the work programme last month but they had fallen behind schedule “because it’s hard”. However, she expected publication in the next few weeks.
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