Danger of child abuse caseloads in Northamptonshire

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Some children’s social workers in Northamptonshire have almost double the number of recommended cases in their in-trays.

National guidelines state social workers should have between 11 and 16 cases at any one time, but Northamptonshire County Council social services staff in the children’s department, which was subject to a damning inspection report last month, have claimed they cannot give some child protection cases the attention they deserve because workloads are too high

And it is claimed some colleagues have left the authority because of the unrealistic caseloads.

A social worker, who asked not to be named, said: “It is horrendous. I have more than 30 cases at the moment and my colleague has almost 40. It’s putting children at risk. Our full-time staff numbers must be down by about a third in 12 months because of people leaving for better paying councils and not being replaced. I can hardly blame them.”

Steve Bennett, of the Unison union, said: “I don’t think anyone has got less than 20 cases on at the minute. I’m talking quite horrific cases that need a lot of input.”

The union says the threshold for investigating cases has been getting higher, meaning cases are increasingly left until they become more serious.

It is understood the county council has taken on 26 agency social workers, although these will be gradually replaced with permanent staff.

But Mr Bennett said he was concerned the department was being drained of experience: “The experienced ones are leaving and the new ones tend to have a degree but no life experience, which is so important in child abuse cases.”

A County Hall spokeswoman said some workload issues were identified by inspectors and were being addressed: “We have asked those staff who are struggling to manage their caseload to raise this formally as a concern with managers. We have set in place regular senior manager visits to frontline teams so there is a clearer oversight on reported pressures.Managers are also undertaking weekly workload and risk management activity.”

The revelations come after Kevin Crompton, who helped turn around A London council following the Baby P scandal, was named the new chairman of the county’s Local Safeguarding Children Board.