Council to ease staff pressure as protection fears surface

Cardiff Council has said it is easing the pressure on its children's social workers after a leaked document highlighted concerns among staff that high workloads. (Picture: Rex, stressed social worker, model released).

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Cardiff Council has said it is easing the pressure on its children’s social workers after a leaked document highlighted concerns among staff that high workloads were putting children at risk.

The leaked minutes of a 23 September meeting of children’s social workers revealed that they felt their workloads were “unmanageable” and that those attending were “worried about having a child death on their caseload”. Social workers at the meeting also felt that managers had not acknowledged their concerns despite repeated attempts to highlight the problem, including a letter from staff to senior managers that was sent in February this year.

But Neelam Bhardwaja, corporate director for people in the social services department, told Community Care that action had and is being taken to remedy the problems. “Like many places, Cardiff has experienced a tremendous increase in referrals – an increase somewhere in the region of 36 to 38%,” she said. “But we have added more staff and are looking at a fundamental redesign of the service.”

She said the council had already recruited eight new principal social workers to support staff and hired more agency workers to help deal with the volume of cases. A new post has also been created to keep tabs on the volume of cases and help manage workloads more effectively. “A lot has happened even since that meeting in September,” said Bhardwaja. “It’s not that nothing has happened, some things have already happened but other things take time to embed.”

She added that more still needed to be done, not least because referrals are continuing to rise. “We did think for a while that the increase was plateauing but it has begun rising again. It’s a combination of the economic climate and raised awareness, but I don’t think Cardiff is alone in this – it’s the same elsewhere in Wales and England too.”

The council has yet to decide whether to investigate the leak, but Bhardwaja said she would “rather spend my time supporting and reassuring social workers and moving things forward”.

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