Pressure of paperwork stops social workers from working

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The Independent Online

The true scale of the workload facing social workers emerged just as they were being castigated in the wake of the Victoria Climbie case last year: many are so bogged down in paperwork that they spend just one hour a day talking to vulnerable children or their parents.

The true scale of the workload facing social workers emerged just as they were being castigated in the wake of the Victoria Climbie case last year: many are so bogged down in paperwork that they spend just one hour a day talking to vulnerable children or their parents.

The Education Secretary Charles Clarke admitted at the time that excessive pressures on staff had led to "disastrous mistakes" such as those in the Climbie case. Since social workers are frequently damned both for intervening too soon and for standing back, it is little wonder that vacancy rates in the profession are up to 50 per cent in some inner-city areas. In Edinburgh, where 30 per cent of child and family care posts are unfilled, a recent report described the staff workload as "unmanageable." A Government Green Paper on children at risk, published last autumn, outlined ways of tackling the crisis in the profession, including major reforms to the training, funding and support of social workers in the wake of the Climbie case. It also laid out plans for a review of staff workload and a new legal duty on police and NHS staff to investigate suspicions of child abuse.

When the paper was published, Mr Clarke said: "Professional social workers have felt very battered about as a result of terrible events that have happened - of which Victoria Climbie's case is obviously one. Morale in the profession is and has been low and there is a feeling that they are bearing the responsibility for some of the toughest problems in society." The Government has been at pains to suggest that the responsibility for children does not lie with social workers alone - but with parents. Greater advice and guidance for parents has been a major thrust of its policy.