Almost a fifth of social workers are still not aware of the changes brought in by the passing of the Children and Families Act into law four months ago, research into the state of the workforce has found.
A report published yesterday by the Victoria Climbié Foundation (VCF) examines social workers’ ability to implement the Children and Families Act within the current infrastructure. With concerns over caseloads, supervision and perception of the profession, the results are not positive.
But beyond the daily challenges hindering social workers from properly implementing changes and recommendations for children’s social care, a more fundamental problem seems to exist in that social workers have not been kept up to speed on what these changes actually are.
The Children and Families Act introduces sweeping reforms, mostly of the adoption system. The Act enshrines a 26-week time limit on care proceedings, with a leeway of up to 8 weeks’ extension in particularly complex cases, intended to reduce delay in the adoption process in order to protect children who are at risk of harm or emotional damage from their birth family.
The Act also removes the clause which recommends ‘due consideration’ should be given to a child’s ethnic or religious background in matching them with a family and gives greater rights for adoptive families to paid leave matching that of a birth parent.
However almost 20% of children’s social workers surveyed by the foundation are still not aware of these changes, despite their being in place since March.
VCF founder Mor Dioum said: “We welcome the Children and Families Act which encourages development of the childcare sector, as well as ensuring a strong advocate for children’s rights.
“However we are concerned that, despite a raft of reviews and recommendations over the past five years, the current social work system is not significantly robust enough to deliver on the Act. We now have evidence from the front line that this is the case.”
Jo Cleary, chair of the College of Social Work, said: “The report rightly draws attention to the importance of effectively engaging practitioners in the reform agenda.”