Haringey Council struggles to recruit social workers in wake of Baby P tragedy

The Baby P case has sparked a recruitment crisis in the social care sector as local authorities struggle to deal with an increase in referrals.

Haringey Council has called on other authorities to lend “good quality” social workers for a month to get it through a “real pinch point” of assessing cases of suspected abuse, according to leaked e-mails obtained by the Guardian.

Yet the newspaper revealed that some councils were unable to help.

A Haringey Council spokesman told Personnel Today he was confident Haringey could work with other authorities to ease the lack of social care workers.

“We are in contact with a number of organisations, including councils and charities, to take forward our improvement work and have already received support from other local authorities,” he said.

“We want to ensure that sufficient staffing resources are available to deliver social care services. An action plan is being prepared to take forward the issues arising from the Joint Area Review, including longer-term plans for staffing.”

However, children’s social workers are at risk of failing to prevent another Baby P tragedy because vacancy rates are high, caseloads rising and there is a shortage of experienced staff, according to the trade union Unison.

The 17-month-old toddler was visited 60 times by professionals who failed to spot physical abuse.

The union’s survey of 369 frontline staff showed that two thirds of staff were working in teams where more than 20% of posts were vacant.

Nearly 60% of social workers said that newly qualified or unqualified staff were now more likely to be doing child protection work with insufficient training or experience, compared with 2003, the research showed.

Late last year a government-commissioned report on the Baby P case criticised the council’s HR processes.

The report said that council HR files seen during the inspection showed that appropriate employment and identity checks were made, but staff had been appointed before CRB checks were completed.

“The high turnover of qualified social workers in some social care teams has resulted in heavy reliance on agency staff, who make up 51 of 121 established social worker posts [in Haringey]. This results in lack of continuity for children and their families, and of care planning,” it added.

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