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Tragic anniversary sparks reform call

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Public sector union Unison has marked the second anniversary of Baby Peter’s tragic death to call on councils give social workers the time they need to do their jobs properly.

The union, which has 40,000 members who are social workers, said morale in the profession had hit “rock bottom” as demand for services has risen, prompting further increases in paperwork.

General secretary Dave Prentis said a rethink on the way child protection services are delivered was owed to Baby Peter and “every social worker struggling to deliver a good and safe service”.

“It cannot be right that social workers spend only 20% of their time with the families and children who need their support, with the rest spent on paperwork and on the computer,” he said.

“Social workers tell us that they want to see that ratio reversed, so that 80% of their time is spent with clients.”

Mr Prentis said vacancy rates in social work averaged 12% across the UK and that the situation could not be allowed to worsen.

“Just last week the Social Work Task Force quite rightly identified the multitude of problems that social workers face in delivering a good service against the odds,” he said.

“One action point that councils can take on now is to fill those vacancies and give staff the means to do their job safely.
“We need to see long term solutions, not quick fixes such as recruiting social workers from abroad or trying to tempt retired social workers back into the profession.”

Mr Prentis added that Unison’s 10 point plan (see “Tables” opposite) for reforming social work would deliver safer ways of protecting vulnerable children drawing directly on the experience of social workers.

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