Commenting on figures published today (Friday) by the Local Government Association, which show that last year a child was referred to local authority children’s services every 49 seconds, UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said:
“Social workers are struggling to cope with unprecedented caseloads and are working long hours without breaks, as they try to protect the vulnerable children on their patch.
“But their jobs are becoming even harder as referrals soar, and budgets are squeezed. This understandably is causing huge stress and anxiety as staff worry that cases are slipping through the net.
“Children can’t be protected from abuse on the cheap. The government must give councils the cash they need to recruit more child protection staff and keep all children safe.”
UNISON is concerned that despite the surge in demand for children’s social work services, at a time of major budget cuts for councils, the government has seen fit to waste £11m on new tests – the national assessment and accreditation system – that social workers say will make their jobs even harder.
Although the £11m is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed, it reflects how out of step ministers are with the wishes of social workers, says UNISON.
Notes to editors:
– A UNISON survey of 2,858 social workers last year said the government’s priorities should be additional funding that would help reduce caseloads.