Unison warns of crisis in Cardiff

Children’s homes in Cardiff are facing major
problems, according to public sector union Unison, with staff
struggling to cope with excessive workloads and vulnerable children
potentially being put at risk.

The stark message from the union came in a
letter to all council members from branch secretary Peter King. He
said front-line workers were experiencing severe frustration,
stress and ill-health as a result of high workloads and services’
failure to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable service

His warning follows two earlier reports that
called for a review of the way services for children were run. In
1994, the Children’s Society made a series of recommendations,
including reducing the number of children taken as emergency cases
and better training for staff. Three years later the Social
Services Inspectorate highlighted 26 areas for improvement.

“There are considerable failings in the
looked-after children’s services due to insufficient and
increasingly inappropriate placements that can only lead to
psychological and emotional harm of our young and most vulnerable
service users,” said King. “This is partly borne out by the
escalating violence that is being experienced by our members in the
residential care homes in Cardiff.”

A spokesperson for the council said it was not
acceptable for staff to face unnecessary violence from young people
and that the council was in the process of analysing the causes of
the problem.

Last year, senior social worker Charles Faber
raised similar concerns about the front-line pressures and the lack
of appropriate care placements in and around Cardiff in a local
television documentary Week In, Week Out. Faber was later
suspended and has now been sacked. Cardiff Council denies that the
action against Faber was related to his TV appearance (News, page
10, 28 February).

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