Focus on Torbay highlights pressures, BASW says
BASW has highlighted the pressures facing social work teams in the wake of Torbay’s children’s services coming under the spotlight for the fact that two out of five children at risk are not being assessed within the government’s ten-day target.
Torbay also hit back at the criticisms, which followed a BBC freedom of information request, arguing that pursuing the ten-day target could come at the expense of a focus on “quality”. The council emphasised that more children are now being assessed within the ten-day timeframe than when it was first placed in special measures following a damning Ofsted inspection in October 2010, up from 40% to 60%.
The council has since undergone huge changes, with 22 staff having left its children’s services department over the past year, including all but one member of the senior management team.
Speaking on the BBC Radio Devon’s Good Morning Devon programme, BASW professional officer Sue Kent said attention should not focus on one council but on the wider challenges facing social workers. “Across the country there is rising demand for social workers to spend time with children and families, to do these initial assessments, but, quite simply, local authorities are struggling to fund this work.”
Ms Kent also highlighted Professor Eileen Munro’s report into the challenges facing child protection services, in which targets and tick boxes were criticised as often stymying good practice.
Although still in special measures Torbay’s children’s services director Richard Williams told the BBC that “lessons have been learnt”. Although Mr Williams said the authority was aiming for 88% of referred children to get an initial assessment inside ten days within the next 18 months, which would put the authority among the best performers nationally, the issue could prove a distraction. “Sometimes by chasing a ten-day target we may do that at the neglect of the quality and quality is the key issue.”