High social work caseloads blamed for council failings

The man brought in to turn around children's social care in Kent has said that high caseloads were a significant reason why the council's services were deemed inadequate by Ofsted last December.

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The man brought in to turn around children’s social care in Kent has said that high caseloads were a significant reason why the council’s services were deemed inadequate by Ofsted last December.

Malcolm Newsam, Kent’s interim director for children and families, said that when he joined in January many children’s social workers were dealing with more than 20-25 cases. Others had caseloads of more than 40 and some had 60-70.

“If you overload staff they can’t do their job properly,” said Newsam. “Everything we have been doing is about taking that backlog out and giving people reasonable workloads and restoring balance to their working lives.”

He added that the increased demands on services following the death of Baby P and a significant number of vacancies had put the service into a “downward spiral”.

Newsam’s admission that workload was a key problem in Kent follows a Community Care survey of 600 social workers in September that found 10% of children’s professionals had more 40 cases on the go. It also emerged that 90% felt high caseloads reduced the quality of the care they provided.

As part of changes to improve services in Kent and clear the backlog of cases, the council spent £1.3m recruiting a peripatetic team of 27 experienced social workers and extra management support.

Newsam said this and other measures have allowed Kent to reduce its caseload by 2,500 in 10 months. “Kent’s in a massively better position now,” he said.

Ofsted branded the council’s safeguarding and looked-after children services inadequate in December 2010 after an unannounced inspection.

Kent’s new director of families and social care, Andrew Ireland, joins this week.

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