Union condemns 64 job cuts in county social services

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Union bosses have described the axing of more than 60 children’s social services staff in Northamptonshire as “an accident waiting to happen”.

A total of 64 experienced family support workers, who help look into early concerns about child neglect and abuse, will be made redundant by Northamptonshire County Council on March 14.

Steve Bennett, of Unison, said: “These guys attend school meetings, go out to families when there’s a cause for concern. They sign off cases when they think everything is okay.

“Those cases are going to be put on a social worker’s desk but social workers are already overstretched.

“There’s no doubt some children’s cases with concerns will have to be left completely.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen.

“If something goes wrong someone will have to be held accountable and we know with the Baby P case that the blame goes right to the top.”

A children’s social services worker, who asked not to be named, added: “Social workers sit behind a desk 
98 per cent of the time and family support workers are their eyes and ears on the ground.

“Currently families we are concerned about get a visit about once a week, after these job losses it could be every six weeks.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about what can happen to one of these children in six weeks.”

Northamptonshire County Council said they are replacing the 64 posts with 14 trainee social workers, who will eventually be more skilled than family support workers.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are in the middle of a redesign of our social care service which will see resources redirected so we can strengthen our front line social work.

“We want to strengthen our frontline teams by recruiting more senior practitioners so that we can have the necessary qualifications and appropriate skills to work with our increasing population,” he added.

The leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at County Hall, Councillor Brendan Glynane (Lib Dem, Delapre & Briar Hill) said: “I certainly think that these particular cuts are the wrong choice. It’s a whole range of cuts to the prevention service.

“It’s a cut to a frontline service and it will have a massive impact in future years to the lives of children and young people.”

He said the family support workers help a lot of children who could suffer as as a result of the cuts in the future.

Councillor Glynane added: “I think what we will probably find is that we will sart to hear stories of children slipping through the net as a consequence of the political decision taken by the Conservatives to cut services to children and vulnerable young people.”