The pressure on children’s social workers has increased dramatically in the last year latest government figures have shown.
The number of children on child protection plans has increased by 12% since last year and jumped by 23.5% since March, 2010. In comparison, the increase from 2011-12 to 2012-13 was 0.5%.
The figures also showed children’s services were dealing with an 11% increase in referrals between March 2013 and March 2014. This has been a marked jump compared with previous years, although the report notes this could be the result of several high profile child protection cases covered in the media.
The figures back up claims by councils that they are having to deal with year on year increases in demand while trying to cut budgets and services at the same time.
Alan Wood, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services told a local government conference in Manchester that although councillors had tried to protect children’s services, cuts were still happening.
“Early help – youth support, CAMHS, reduction in short breaks, children’s centres – have really bourne the brunt. This is a worrying trend because risk management in safeguarding is complex.”
The DfE figures also showed almost 400,000 children were classified as in-need, a 5% increase on last year and continuing a steady upward trend since 2012. Almost half (47.2%) had suffered some kind of abuse or neglect.
However, the report noted that these figures are subject to massive variation at local level with the number of children in need per 10,000 ranging from 149.3 in Wokingham and 181.9 in Surrey, to 694.2 in Middlesbrough and 743.2 in Torbay.
Episodes of need are also getting longer with 20% now lasting more than a year.
The figures also appear to lay to rest concerns that scrapping assessment deadlines would lead to long delays in children being assessed. Most local authorities were still completing assessments within the original required timescales or were completing continuous assessments within 25 days, well within the 45 days stipulated in the Working Together guidance.