Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The costs of new procedures

Research from Loughborough University funded by the Local Government Association confirms that child protection social workers are systematically overworked and shows how workload pressures have increased in the wake of the Baby Peter tragedy (

The researchers looked specifically at the cost of implementing Laming’s post Baby Peter recommendation that every referral from another professional must be followed up by an initial assessment. They found that as a result there would be more than a 90% increase in the number of initial assessments, requiring 2,000 extra social workers at a cost of £75 million per annum.

It has always scared me that reports of enquiries, such as Laming’s, have a habit of recommending numerous procedural changes without taking into account the resource implications. There is always a one-off cost in changing working practices but un-assessed proposals usually result in unforeseen recurrent costs as well. Often managers have to make savings in other activities to fund the resulting shortfalls. The overall impact is that services 'evolve' in a haphazard, unplanned and illogical way.