Social workers hit back at NSPCC over ‘skills gap’ claim

Social workers have reacted angrily to a claim by the NSPCC that their sector is beleaguered by a skills gap when dealing with neglect.

“Instead of casting a slur on social workers, the NSPCC should return to its core function of preventing cruelty and neglect by providing a frontline service instead of wasting its money on campaigns designed to promote itself,” wrote one social worker on Community Care’s CareSpace online forum.

Another wrote: “The NSPCC, in my opinion, con government and the general public out of huge sums of money through their emotionally-appealing adverts and publicity whilst doing hardly any frontline child protection work itself.”

The responses followed the NSPCC’s call for an overhaul of social work guidelines for dealing with neglected children as it launched a campaign to make child protection a higher political priority in the general election.

Reiterating its previous claims made to the Laming inquiry that there was a skills gap on the issue of neglect, the NSPCC has also recommended that workers give parents clear timelines to improve care.

However, social workers pointed out this issue was complicated. One wrote: “In practice, the whole timeline thing is right, but I’d love to see the first few cases that go to court on that basis.” Another expressed concern about the timeline particularly in cases where neglect was linked to poverty, pointing out “these families need money and resources rather than professionals with ‘skills’ making ‘decisive’ interventions”.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Some of the comments [on CareSpace] acknowledge there can be ‘drift’ in neglect cases which is what we were trying to highlight.”

Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, said neglect was a grey area for many social workers. “Neglect tends to be pervasive and long-term so it is often difficult for social workers to know when, and how, it is best to intervene,” he said.

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