Full extent of social workers’ misery revealed

By Alex Stevenson

Social workers face a “vicious circle” that is driving the sector downwards, a government-appointed taskforce has found.

An interim report of the Social Work Task Force issued the warning as it continues to assess the state of social services in the wake of the case of Baby P, later identified as Baby Peter.

The 17-month-old died after suffering sustained abuse, despite being visited over 60 times by social workers from Haringey council. Children’s secretary Ed Balls is seeking wide reform of the profession after public anger at Peter’s fate.

Today the body he has appointed to investigate what changes are needed has laid out the underlying problems it believes are partly to blame.

Its report says poor public understanding of social work has led to recruitment problems, which have in turn compromised the profession’s ability to deliver a good service.

“These pressures can in turn squeeze out time spent with service users and time spent on supervision, reflection and analysis, all of which make possible the fine judgements at the heart of successful social work,” the report states.

It explained: “Many of these weaknesses can end up compounding one another, causing a vicious circle in which service improvement becomes hard to achieve.”

The government has already pledged to establish a National Safeguarding Delivery Unit which will oversee child protection across the country.

It came in response to a review by Lord Laming which demanded “a step-change in managerial accountability” in the service.

Today’s report outlines some of the problems which will need to be changed.

Among the themes it identifies are that social workers feel “overstretched”, new recruits feel “poorly prepared” for the job and that most in the profession feel they are “undervalued” by society.