Social work under pressure

A massive rise in child protection cases in Coventry is another reflection of the pressure that social workers in children’s services are having to endure. The BBC have reported that following the death of Daniel Pelka two years ago by his mother, the number of cases rose from 3,085 in March 2013 to 4,529 in March 2014.

All of these reports of suspected child abuse have to, of course, be properly looked into. There is just no way that front line services can ignore a referral of that nature in case something serious has to be interrupted and a child has to be supported.

The question of agency staff has also been raised with Coventry accepting that they probably have too many of them. There is nothing inherently wrong with agency staff but, by their very nature, they are a short term solution and social work in the main relies on forming solid relationships over a longer period of time usually. I have heard reports that Coventry have found extra money to employ more front line staff, but we have to have some sympathy for them even then if the significant growth in referrals is as dramatic as we heard and if it continues.

The sad fact is that the stress and burn out levels of social workers who day after day are having to cope with far too many cases and therefore far too much critical responsibility, will continue to be a chronic problem and so there is unlikely to be huge relief in the short term – except perhaps psychologically.

Just remember that social workers tools are what’s between their ears and if they are damaged or traumatised or over loaded there is always a higher danger of something being missed, just through human exhaustion.

We need Coventry to be an example for the country and other authorities with very high vacancy rates to be equally supported. I fully understand that all are required good management and competent practitioners, but at the very least we should be judging people in an acceptable work environment and not with the extra burden on their backs that constant covering for colleagues brings.

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