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Social work jobs 'tarnished' fear

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The vilification of social workers in the wake of the Baby P tragedy could make it even harder to recruit staff to the profession, sector leaders have warned.

LGCplus understands that the Improvement & Development Agency’s forthcoming annual Workforce Strategy Survey will again highlight social work as local government’s biggest area of recruitment difficulty when it is published in the coming weeks.

Last year’s survey showed that 78% of councils reported difficulties in hiring or retaining social workers.

Ian Johnston, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers , said potential social workers would “obviously think twice” about entering a profession that offered less pay than medical or police work, but from which the public demanded more.

Ray Jones, former director of social services at Wiltshire CC and now professor of social work at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London, said the level of media hostility towards the profession would have direct consequences.

“There’s a danger that potential recruits could be deterred from entering the profession,” he said.

“And there will be some people doing the job who don’t feel supported and think the best thing they can do is to get out before it goes wrong.”

Jasmine Ali, head of the Children’s Services Network , agreed that media attacks on social workers could only add to the recruitment and retention issues in the sector - a particular problem flagged up by Ofsted’s emergency joint area review of Haringey .

“It’s just not going to help,” she said.

Children’s secretary Ed Balls ordered the sacking of Haringey LBC director of children’s services Sharon Shoesmith after an emergency report on the borough’s handling of the Baby P case revealed mismanagement and a lack of inter-agency collaboration. She has been suspended on full pay.

Council leader George Meehan (Lab) and children’s services lead Liz Santry (Lab) announced their resignations on the same day.

Mr Balls also announced that Ofsted was to begin conducting unannounced inspections of safeguarding practices at councils on an annual basis.

Other LGCplus reports on the Baby P case

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