Shrinking front line ‘at heart of failings’

Child protection failings highlighted by last week’s report into abuse on the Western Isles have been caused by dwindling front-line expertise, social work chiefs say.

The Association of Directors of Social Work is blaming local government reorganisation in 1995-6, when professionals in 12 regional bodies were spread across 32 councils.

President Colin Mackenzie said staff with hands-on experience were “swept into social work management” and their expertise was “lost to the front line”. Recruitment problems in the sector had exacerbated the problem.

The Western Isles report, by the Social Work Inspection Agency, found social workers and managers failed to take children into care quickly enough despite evidence of abuse (news, page 12, 13 October).

The ADSW and Alasdair Morrison, MSP for the Western Isles, are calling on the Scottish executive to set up a national child protection body to offer support to staff working in the field.

The measure was recommended by the inspection agency in its report and also by Lord Clyde in his report into abuse in Orkney in 1992.

An executive spokesperson said the measure was to be discussed at its child protection strategy group meeting last week.

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