Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Pressure of Work

The NSPCC’s report on twenty indicators of child safety (“How safe are our children?) has just been published.

The indicators seem to confirm the picture I outlined in December 2013 of a sustained increase in work for social workers engaged in child protection.

The figures show an unrelenting increase in the numbers of assessments undertaken, the number of children subject to a child protection plan and the number of children looked after due to abuse or neglect.

However, the NSPCC points out that the rate and number of children referred to children’s social care have decreased year on year since 2010/11, suggesting that thresholds have risen.

Last month the government published some statistics on the children’s social care workforce. Although these do not provide much interesting information about trends (e.g. in numbers over the last ten years) there is enough in them to see that the workforce is under strain.

There were just over 3,600 full time equivalent vacancies of children’s social worker posts in England, a vacancy rate 14%. The turnover rate was 15%. And children’s social workers took on average just under one day per month in sickness absence. There was substantial reliance on agency workers, equivalent to 3,250 full-time equivalent posts.

None of this can be easy reading for government ministers. There are all the signs of increased pressure of work and no real increase in resources. People who are over-worked and stressed often fail to make good decisions and they are more likely to make mistakes.