NSPCC makes over 150 staff – mostly social workers – redundant in closure of face-to-face centres

Social workers and local politicians have expressed concern over impact on children currently supported by practitioners, but charity says restructure will enable it to concentrate on preventive work

Redundancy blocks image
Photo: shane/Adobe Stock

The NSPCC is making 165 roles, mostly held by social workers, redundant as it closes service centres around the country.

Social workers at sites across the UK are finishing their work, which included offering face-to-face support, as part of the charity’s ‘protect and respect’ service for children and young people who may be experiencing sexual exploitation.

One employee being made redundant said they were concerned for the children they worked with while politicians in areas where services are stopping have said it would leave young people in their regions with insufficient support.

However, the charity defended the changes, saying they were designed to shift its focus to more preventive work.

The NSPCC is closing 10 service centres, in Peterborough, Gillingham, Coventry, Newcastle, Sheffield, York, Carlisle, Tidworth, Craigavon and Swansea. It is also stopping face-to-face services at other offices that include Prestatyn, Warrington, Croydon and Blackpool.

As a result of the closures, the charity will lose 165.63 full-time-equivalent roles, most of these held by social workers providing face-to-face support to children.

The NSPCC is offering to redeploy some of the social workers being made redundant to other parts of the charity including new regional “hubs”, the first of which it expects to open later this year. It says it has already redeployed 75 staff members who had been made redundant.

The charity will open seven hubs in Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Swindon, Camden, Cardiff (serving the whole of Wales) and a two-location Northern Irish centre at Belfast and Foyle, and plans to open two others covering Scotland and the east of England.

It is unclear exactly what services NSPCC will offer at the hubs, but it says it will work with other organisations, including councils, to assess children’s need for specialist services, some of which the charity will continue to provide depending on where it considers its resources are best targeted.

Child sexual exploitation programme to end

The charity’s ‘protect and respect’ programme, in which social workers provided intensive, tailored support to children and families over a six- to twelve-month period from the service centres, will end.

Practitioners at the service centres helped young people aged between 11-19 who had been or were at risk of being forced into sexual activity, both online and offline.

They used trauma-informed and therapeutic approaches to offer a safe space in which to promote learning and reflection to the children, the charity said.

The programme was not designed to be a formal therapy service for highly traumatised children, but worked alongside other therapeutic support from child and adolescent mental health services.

Between 2012 and 2020, it supported over 3,600 young people at risk of sexual exploitation, with almost half of those referrals coming from schools, including more than 200 children during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Concerns for children

Social workers at the affected sites are finishing their current work with children and families but are not taking on new cases.

One social worker told Community Care that the NSPCC had instructed them to prematurely end some support for children with whom they were working, but the charity has denied this.

“A lot of the professionals being made redundant have got over the initial personal shock,” they said.

“But they are now very worried and concerned about what happens to the children they’ve been working with for a long period of time.”

The charity said that any child or family currently receiving an NSPCC service will complete their agreed programme of work.

An NSPCC spokesperson said the charity was “incredibly grateful for everything that our service centre staff have done to support children and their families” and that it was helping the employees being made redundant “in any way we can”.

“We’ve been working with staff on training and suitable alternative employment where possible and we thank all of them for their hard work and everything they have accomplished for children so far,” the spokesperson said.

Support with CSE

Community Care Inform’s child sexual exploitation knowledge and practice hub provides social workers with comprehensive guidance and support in managing CSE cases. It includes findings from research, quick tips, including on spotting the signs of CSE, and advice on peer-to-peer expoloitation and direct work. Those with a whole-workforce licence for Inform can also access a supported learning quiz and interactive case scenarios on the topic.

Loss of funding during pandemic

The charity said its restructuring was not an attempt to save money, rather a shift from reactive face-to-face services to more preventive work.

Children’s services and other local public agencies referred children to the NSPCC’s service centres but they did not pay the charity to provide face-to-face services. The charity instead funded these services through donations.

In the year to March 2021, £102.6m (84%) of the charity’s £121.8m income came from donations, an increase from £93.5m and £117.6m the previous year, respectively, according to its latest accounts.

The NSPCC said it lost around £10m during the Covid-19 pandemic but that it has made a lot of that back through fundraising campaigns and a Department for Education grant of £1.6m for its helpline for adults with concerns about children.

It said it began planning the restructure prior to the pandemic with the aim of having the “greatest impact with the funding we have”.

The NSPCC consulted on the changes with staff in June this year, at which point it also discussed the plans with volunteers and other agencies that referred children to it, such as local authorities.

At the end of August, the charity shared its decision to close the service centres and open the hubs with staff, volunteers and other agencies.

Some virtual and face-to-face services will be provided at the hubs, where staff will also work on campaigning and maintaining partnerships with other agencies, including providing a named point of contact for every school in the UK.

Childline and the charity’s helpline for adults with concerns about a child, both of which receive funding from central government, will also continue, as will its abuse prevention programme, ‘together for childhood’, in Glasgow, Plymouth, Stoke and Grimsby.

“With less early help services for families, growing online safety concerns, and the impact of the pandemic, we’re extremely worried about the risks facing children,” the spokesperson said.

“Our work to prevent abuse has never been more important and we’re confident that these changes will help us have the greatest impact, with the funding we have, in keeping children safe across the country.”

‘A tragedy for young people’

Clive Johnson, a Labour councillor for the Conservative-run Medway council in Kent, said he was concerned over the loss of social workers’ expertise from the NSPCC Gillingham service centre’s closure.

The charity is making around 12 social workers redundant in Gillingham, as the service winds down, and plans for its regional hub in Camden, north London, to provide some services for children in Kent in future.

Johnson said the hub in Camden was “not really going to be of use to anybody in Medway” as children and families “would have to physically get to Camden”.

He said the work NSPCC provided at the Gillingham centre was “vital to us” and he had “real concerns about what’s going to fill that gap, if anything”.

Johnson said he was particularly concerned about the loss of social work expertise in the area, saying “it’s a real shame if that expertise is going to be lost to the system”.

“The NSPCC are major players in safeguarding and in services for young people… Nationally, we are going to be losing those services and expertise and that’s a real tragedy for the young people,” he said.

Medway council has taken on some of NSPCC’s ‘domestic abuse, recovering together’ programme, which works with child domestic abuse victims, in the area.

At the Prestatyn site in north Wales, the NSPCC is making 12 practitioners redundant, although the call centre for Childline will remain at the site.

Dr James Davies, MP for Vale of Clwyd, has urged the charity to reconsider the withdrawal of its face-to-face services in the area, expressing concern about the charity’s plan to provide services for the whole of Wales from its hub in Cardiff.

“I have highlighted that the location of a hub in Cardiff will be of little use to local people,” he wrote in July.

“The NSPCC does vital and important work and they must have the freedom to choose the nature of the services they offer and how they deliver them, but I have urged them to reconsider their plans to withdraw the existing face-to-face provision in north Wales.”

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12 Responses to NSPCC makes over 150 staff – mostly social workers – redundant in closure of face-to-face centres

  1. Maria October 29, 2021 at 12:38 pm #

    It is such a shame as to where the direction of service delivery is going within NSPCC. It seems a lot of money is spent on developing and testing intervention programmes that are then intended to be ‘sold’ to other sectors, presenting a business model of child safeguarding. However, the question is, who has the money to buy these programmes and more so who have the resources to deliver them. At times when we really do need direct support to children and young people in the community; who are reeling from the impact of Covid-19, experiencing the uncertainty and anxiety around the future of the planet and where rapid emerging poverty across the nation is increasing risk in so many ways, NSPCC are making the ‘strategic’ choice to withdraw vital support. I’m not chocked or surprised but I am concerned. It will be interesting to see if the fundraising strategy also changes to reflect where money is going to. I don’t feel that it can continue to portray that public donations is contributing to directly saving/protecting the image of the ‘sad child’ in the corner.

  2. Steph October 29, 2021 at 2:54 pm #

    Poor show from NSPCC. At a time when they themselves are publishing research showing the increase in online abuse – particularly around sexual exploitation – they choose to pull a service designed to meet the needs of those children?! How is that helpful? Or supporting children?
    To say that the NSPCC works in conjunction with the local area to offer relevant services is entirely untrue. The NSPCC decides it’s own priorities and then offers services which fall in line with those, irrespective of local need. They have been doing that for years.
    NSPCC develop a programme, offer it for a period of time and then try to ‘sell’ the model on before pulling it from their ‘portfolio’. They’ve done it time and time again. It’s a business model. Which is absolutely fine – but don’t then try and sell yourself as a children’s charity based on ‘preventing’ abuse and putting children first.
    NSPCC don’t put the needs of children first, they don’t put the needs of the local area first – if they did, they wouldn’t be removing much needed face to face services.
    Local authorities are under enough pressure without trying to them mop up the mess the NSPCC are creating by pulling their support.

  3. Louise October 29, 2021 at 3:19 pm #

    As a former employee I can say sadly this is no surprise. The NSPCC sees frontline work as the Cinderella service, it doesn’t have the numbers or the “pull” of Childline. Services are not designed to meet local need, and useful, needed services have been ended, often due to an absolute fear of risk. It’s not the organisation it was when I first started working for them, really tragic waste of highly skilled social workers.

  4. Fred Elliott October 29, 2021 at 3:20 pm #

    Let’s have some honesty. This is not about prevention, it’s about money. Charities UKwide are suffering a major squeeze on income through the coronavirus, and on top of that the NSPCC has had some truly terrible PR lately – and they are having to refocus their work to paper over the cracks. They’re dressing it up in fine words but that’s just PR. They’re in a mess, like many other charities, and are making impossibly hard choices to manage the problem. And there’s no way to dress this up to be more positive, so it hurts their image (as if other events have not) – and further affects their income…

  5. John Stephenson. October 29, 2021 at 6:17 pm #

    Can you tell us how many senior managers on their enormous salaries are being made redundant.As a local authority social worker for 25 years I never did find out what N.S.P.C.C, did except refer cases to the Local Authority.

    • Steph October 29, 2021 at 7:09 pm #

      What NSPCC do will entirely depend on what local authority you were working for. Children have always been subject to a postcode lottery in terms of NSPCC services as they didn’t have a consistent offer in the service centres.
      For some LAs they offered absolutely nothing, for others they had access to some useful direct work – ranging from long term interventions to short term or group work programmes.

      The only consistent offer across the UK is their helpline. Where they refer concerns in for the LA to respond to. The biggest myth I’ve seen them try to sell recently through their media campaigns is how their helpline responds to abuse – whereby they make out like NSPCC are the ones to go out and knock on the door and make children safe. Which everyone who works for the NSPCC or the LA knows isn’t true.

    • anon October 29, 2021 at 10:59 pm #

      Agreed.
      I spent five years in a first contact/front door team and a significant proportion of the anonymous referrals received via the nspcc were often found to be malicious..

    • Julia October 30, 2021 at 1:16 pm #

      Exactly John. If there is an allegation of child abuse this will be referred to Children’s Services. As a LA social worker, there is not knowledge amongst my team about what it is the NSPCC actually does and certainly no history of referring our children to any service they may provide.
      I supported this organisation financially for many years, but stopped when I received regular requests to increase payments, but was unable to see where the money actually went.

  6. Lorraine Walsh October 29, 2021 at 9:18 pm #

    NSPCC are no longer relevant in preventing abuse. They are run by finance team of accountants and corporate managers. The social workers did the real work with parents and children. They have been reduced over many years and are just a poor token gesture to keep public donations coming in.
    The volunteers and telephone counsellors do not have the skills and professional expertise. They can however take down details and pass onto local authorities. But so can any receptionist.
    Poor show.The researchers like to tell practitioners how to do it without ever having done the direct work with children andfamilies.
    Rev Waugh never set up this charity to be so out of touch with helping children.

  7. The Hulk October 31, 2021 at 6:26 pm #

    Hopefully some of those Social Workers will come back to LA posts. Which will address some of the vacant posts.

  8. Carol November 1, 2021 at 5:46 pm #

    Having recently retired from nspcc I was not surprised to hear the positive spin put on the news that nspcc is making the majority of its practitioners redundant whilst managing to improve its preventative reach . This does not make any sense . How could this be possible when nspcc staff who once served certain geographical areas are being wiped out – leaving children without the specialist service that was once on offer albeit for only a small number of children.
    The loss of centres also removes nspcc from local safeguarding arrangements which serve communities . A regional hub cannot grasp the unique cultures and needs of the different local authorities which may
    Make up the region .
    Having worked for the both the organisation and local authority for considerable periods of time , I understand why above negative comments have been made about the work of nspcc and have been critical myself of the organisational culture in the past. Notwithstanding this , to delete jobs and close service centres when social care is struggling to support vulnerable people will not benefit children and families in need . To suggest that this is better for children does not reflect the reality of the situation and makes no sense .

  9. Anon November 5, 2021 at 11:43 am #

    I was made redundant by the NSPCC, I was told by the director of our area that this was due to there being a £8 million funding gap. This was the reason I and my colleagues were being made redundant, not due to restructuring. Repeatedly the £8 million was reiterated to us when we asked questions. Now I read this and I am finding out it was due to restructuring and a move to more preventative work. I guess I will never truly know why I and my colleagues were made redundant.

    Give it 10 years and the project of turning the NSPCC into a safeguarding consultancy charity will be complete; People like Peter Wanless who has never worked a day with a traumatised child can pat themselves on the back and say what a good they do and what a better job everyone else needs to do, whilst doing absolutely no direct work with children and unfortunately having even less of an impact on the welfare of children.