Unison accuses Birmingham over child protection thresholds

Birmingham is proposing to raise thresholds within children's services, according to Unison.

Birmingham is planning to raise thresholds within children’s services, according to Unison.

The council’s budget, published this week, proposed a “remodelling [of] children’s social care services, producing a more streamlined management structure with fewer posts and a reduced number of referrals and children in care”.

“I certainly read this as implying it is the council’s intention to raise thresholds in children’s services,” Tony Rabaiotti, regional head of local government at West Midlands Unison, told Community Care. “They’re actually looking at blocking referrals, which is seriously worrying because of all the recent scandals in Birmingham.”

The council been under an improvement notice for child safeguarding since February 2009, and the Khyra Ishaq case and Birmingham’s failure to allocate child protection cases to qualified social workershave also put the department in the spotlight.

Rabaiotti said this recent proposal would put even more children at risk.

“What the council would argue is that less serious referrals don’t need to be dealt with by social workers,” he said. “My argument is that when a referral first comes in, you don’t know how serious it is until it is investigated properly by the right people. In child protection cases especially, often, the people making the referral don’t even know.

“My worry about this proposal is that children who need protecting will slip through the net because the council door will be slammed in the face of referrers.”

Birmingham would not say how many posts would be lost in the children’s services remodel, but Community Care understands that about 900 employees could lose their jobs within the children, young people and families directorate. This includes those working in education, welfare and youth services. Community Care has been unable to confirm whether this number includes any social workers.

In 2011-12, the council hopes to save £10m in the remodelling of children’s social care, increasing to £16m the year after.

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