It is not surprising that social workers are uncertain about the
effectiveness of the Children’s Fund and Connexions.
The Children’s Fund’s new definition of “vulnerable children” is
wider than the Children Act’s “children in need”, and it remains to
be seen whether projects will therefore decide they can leave
children in need to social services. Given that the fund will
increase referrals to social services, this would be a
Connexions, meanwhile, may also bypass the most vulnerable
children in many areas. As local authorities improve services for
care leavers, advised under new legislation to work closely with
Connexions, many are finding they just can’t tie the two services
together, because they are so culturally and practically
The Community Care survey this week reveals that
inadequate training and support, and a perilous lack of funding to
core services despite Quality Protects money, are taking their
In the year 2000-2001, social services departments in England
faced a combined overspend of over £205 million. And 65 per
cent of that was attributed to the drive to improve children’s
Children’s services are neglected and it shows. As our survey
demonstrates, children and families social workers face violence
and intimidation on an alarming scale. Meanwhile, the complexity of
cases and the understanding required to deal with them are
increasing. Yet more than half feel inadequately trained.
The successes of Quality Protects must not be ignored. But it is
not yet filtering down to the frontline – perhaps not surprisingly
given the recruitment crisis which QP has exacerbated.
Meanwhile, the government’s mouth and money are behind
initiatives that have not yet made clear whether they understand
the central importance of social work with the most vulnerable
Nobody argues that there is a clear cut treatment for people
with personality disorder. It is a difficult and complex diagnosis
and there are no obvious solutions.
However this cannot be used as an excuse to provide substandard
As our news story (page 4) reveals, Sarah Lawson, whose father
was convicted of helping her to die earlier this month, was failed
by not just the health service but also social services.
Her family was not informed of the existence or outcome of an
internal investigation. A number of social workers saw Sarah but
the one she could relate to was promoted, leaving the vulnerable
young woman with no social services support, according to her
Her testimony reveals a service which failed to communicate with
Sarah’s family and to act in a humane way, leaving them unsupported
and feeling isolated.
Just because there was no clear treatment for Sarah did not mean
she and her family should have been left in this way. In the
absence of a clear path of treatment, doing nothing is still not an