Unison on Baby P: Cut red tape to improve child protection

Unison has warned that social workers are being diverted from their child protection duties by excessive red tape, in a statement issued in the wake of the Baby P case.

Following a seminar yesterday involving around 80 social care members of the union, Unison criticised the “bureaucratic burden” being placed on social workers.

Unison also highlighted the high turnover and vacancy rates in the profession, with some social work teams having to operate with over 40% of posts unfilled. It cited figures showing an overall vacancy rate of 12%, with 70% of local authorities reporting difficulties in finding new recruits.

Huge caseloads

The statement said that the situation has led to “huge caseloads” for individuals that created unbearable stress.

Unison head of press and broadcasting Mary Maguire said that it was important that inquiries into tragedies such as Baby P’s death took place, but added: “They do tend to come up with recommendations that mean a lot of our social workers are spending far too much time at their desks doing the paperwork rather than actively out dealing with their caseloads.”

Maguire said the problems identified at the seminar were long-standing. She continued: “At the moment, who would want to go and work for Haringey social services with the way the media have been putting them in the spotlight? What’s always forgotten is the number of children that are safe and well each day because of the intervention of social workers.”

Community Care survey

The statement echoes the findings of a Community Care online survey of 250 readers, which were published this week. It found that 86% thought the Baby P case was symptomatic of systemic problems in child protection.

Respondents cited a lack of social workers, excessive paperwork, inadequate training and supervision and targets to reduce the number of children on child protection plans as key issues.

They also criticised the integrated children’s system – the electronic case management system for children’s social care.

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