Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Not Good News

The Community Care survey reveals a depressing, but not surprising, picture of rising ‘thresholds’ for child protection social work.

Eighty percent of 600 social care professionals surveyed by the magazine said that they had seen child protection ‘thresholds’ raise during the last year. This was particularly marked for neglect. Respondents attributed the rise to high vacancy rates (40+%), lack of social workers (60%), budget cuts (70+%) and increased referrals (just under 80%).

Spokespeople from the British Association of Social Workers and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services have made sensible statements in reaction to these figures. 

The figures are indicative of a squeeze on services – more demand and less supply. In my view the Government does not have a credible response to this situation. The idea that Frontline (see - will solve the supply problem is fanciful – even a fantasy – and there is no clear guidance on how local authorities are supposed to respond to persistently increased demand for services in the absence of more resources.

People at local level – often ‘coal face’ staff – are being asked to take the strain. They are being expected to work more effectively with reduced resources. In short, they are being asked to square circles.

Systems should be able ‘flex’ to some extent to cope with fluctuations in demand, but, like balloons, there comes a point when even a rubbery envelope can no longer sustain the increase in pressure.

It is difficult not to conclude that the result will be further disasters.