Thomas Bridge 16 July 2014

Campaigners raise fears about future of social work

Social work systems need ‘urgent improvement’ if front line staff are to implement news laws protecting the welfare of children, campaigners warn.

The Victoria Climbié Foundation UK (VCF) fears current social work infrastructure is not ‘significantly robust’ enough’ to deliver on the Children and Families Act, which was granted royal assent in March.

Health professionals and campaigners pointed to the results of a survey published today that found only 21% of responding social workers were fairly optimistic or optimistic about their futures in the current system.

A poll of almost 500 social workers by VCF and HCL Social Care found 80% felt recent reforms had not allowed them to spend more time with children or reduced bureaucracy.

Research published in Voices from the front line suggests less than one in five social workers feel government initiatives are robust enough to enhance their reputation with the public.

Only 15% of respondents said they felt adequately supported by their managers, while over three quarters said there was a need for higher standards in recruitment of children’s social workers.

VCF said councils should now be mandated to implement the Standards for Employers in Social Work, including the need to establish consistent workforce development.

The group added that front line staff should be allowed to actively participate in improving local systems.

Chief executive of VCF, Mor Dioum, said: ‘We welcome the Children and Families Act which encourages development of the childcare sector, as well as ensuring a strong advocate for children's rights. However, we are concerned that, despite a raft of reviews and recommendations over the past five years, the current social work system is not significantly robust enough to deliver on the Act.

‘We have observed, with growing alarm, the significant budget cuts levied on local government, which has consequently compressed the strain on the children and families' social work sector. Demand is growing but services are being reduced.’

Gary Chatfield, managing director at HCL Social Care said: ‘For social workers in children's services this should be a time of great hope but the high levels of frustration expressed by our respondents is simply soul-destroying.’

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