Data published by the Department for Education (DfE) has found that a child was referred to children’s social care (Local Authority) every 49 seconds last year.
2016/17 facts and figures:
- 646,120 referrals
- 1,770 referrals every day
- 500 child protection investigations on average each day (an increase from 200 a decade ago).
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, has highlighted that Children’s Social Care face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020. If this gap is not closed, the LGA has warned that it will leave many children and families across the country, who desperately rely on these crucial services, at risk.
Why is this the case?
Whilst these figures can be attributed, in part, to an increased awareness of child neglect and abuse on a multi-disciplinary level, for a number of years’ children social workers have reported on the increased pressures they face on a day to day basis. Indicating that a lack of funding and issues with recruitment and staff retention within the workforce, inhibits their ability to adequately safeguard or protect those from harm.
This has led to an over stretched workforce often reliant on the good will of social workers to go that ‘extra mile’ in supporting those as assessed as in need. However, recently we have seen how a reliance on the good will of staff has attributed to a rise in social workers taking ‘sick leave’ due to emotional well-being and mental health issues.
A recent study by BASW, in partnership with Bath Spa University and the Social Workers Union, showed over half of social workers have thoughts of leaving their role within 18 months due to poor employment conditions; particularly high caseloads, poor management and working very long hours – a combination the study indicates is leading to burnout. They found the number of social workers taking time off work for at least a month rose from 1,537 in 2012-13 to 1,911 in 2016-17, in 135 UK councils.
What is and can be done?
Injection of funding; Most social workers would advocate for an injection of funding to support early intervention as crucial. The re-introduction of effective preventative services, rather than reactionalist based services, would help address the root causes of issues within the family home prior to them escalating to child protection concerns.
Increased resources; It is vital that if these concerning figures are to be addressed social workers are given the necessary resources to provide an effective response and not just a ‘revolving door’ service based on crisis intervention and management rather than prevention and effective intervention delivery.
Creative social work solutions; As a profession, there a number of excellent social work projects and services being run. For example, we recently reported how nine local authorities were changing adult social care by developing community-led social work practice. The results thus far indicate improved staff morale, quicker response time for those seeking support as well as improved budget savings.
Increased training; Most Local Authorities have increased investment in their learning and development programmes for social workers. Such as returnships, academies and ASYE projects.
Positive social work; finally, we need to improve our ability to advocate the positive work we do in media outlets and challenge the negative portrayal of our profession.
What do you think?
How would you support children’s social workers?