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Lack of social workers putting vulnerable children at risk


Vulnerable children are being put at risk by a chronic shortage of experienced social workers, according to research published today. The supply of social workers will not equal demand until 2022, according to a paper from the think-tank Policy Exchange, a situation it says could have “tragic implications”.

The shortage has resulted in a flurry of vacancies around the country, many of which continue to go unfilled. Of English councils who responded to information requests, 13 reported having 15 or more vacancies, four had more than 100 and two had more than 200. Kent County Council had the most, with 251 vacancies.

As older workers leave the profession, the vacancies they leave behind typically require two or more years’ experience. Nearly three-quarters of those older leavers say their case loads are unmanageable.

Even though more students are enrolling as social workers, one in five newly qualified social workers were unemployed in 2011. Many are unable to find a job because they could not get decent work experience and are seen as “too green” by employers.

Guy Miscampbell, author of the report, said: “A shortage of experienced social workers could have potentially tragic implications, especially for vulnerable children.

“For social services to be effective they must have skilled, motivated and qualified staff. An increasing demand for adult social care as more people are living longer combined with tighter adult and child social care budgets among local authorities means that simply increasing financial investment is not the answer. We need a root-and-branch structural reform of services and training to deliver better outcomes with limited resources.”