Vulnerable children are could be put further at risk due to a shortage of social workers, according to a leading body for the profession after figures showed 23 per cent of posts in Peterborough are unfilled.
This figure for for permanent children’s social workers in the city compares to a national average of 11 per cent.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) believe many employees have found the role untenable in the wake of “social work bashing” by politicians, the public and parts of the media in the wake of a number of high-profile child abuse scandals.
BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri said: “[Shortages] will up the ante. Risk is risk. We are talking about children who largely are at risk and the system can make that riskier if people haven’t got enough capacity to do that work rigorously and thoroughly.
Ms Mansuri described how hard it was for social workers to make a “meaningful relationship” with a child or family because they have too many cases.
She added: “It’s not rocket science. If we give people way too much work beyond their capacity then it’s not going to work and it’s not good for those children. It makes their situation more vulnerable.”
In Peterborough, the city council employs 87 social workers, four of whom are dedicated child sexual exploitation workers.
There are currently 25 unfilled vacancies for social workers in children’s services with the roles taken up by agency staff.
Sue Westcott, director of children’s services at the council, said: “Peterborough is unfortunately no different to any other local authority in the challenge we face recruiting permanent social workers.
“However, we continue to use agency staff to cover vacant posts so that we can support vulnerable families.
“We are constantly striving to recruit additional permanent social workers and a campaign this year has helped to raise our profile amongst the profession, attracting three senior social workers so far.
“We are also developing a new social work academy providing training and support to newly qualified staff and exploring a bursary fund scheme with the government to enable us to develop trainees.”
Ninety-eight English councils responded to Freedom of Information requests which asked how many social workers in children’s services they employed and how many vacancies were unfilled, according to the latest statistics.