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BASW highlights damaging 'draconian' culture as Doncaster receives critical report

Concerns such as those highlighted today over failing children’s services at Doncaster will remain unless bureaucracy is reduced and cuts reversed to allow social workers to do their job, warned BASW’s chief executive Bridget Robb.

According to reports in the Telegraph and elsewhere, child protection services in Doncaster are set to be downgraded to “inadequate” following an unannounced Ofsted inspection.

A new critical report into the Edlington case, in which two brothers aged 11 and 12 were kidnapped and tortured to near death, is also expected today.

Responding to the reports, Ms Robb highlighted concern over management practices in Doncaster.

She said: “No assessment of the standards of social work practice in Doncaster is complete without an understanding that social workers in the local authority have been working under draconian conditions and within a bullying culture. Staff there were recently issued with a 'signed or be sacked' ultimatum to accept cuts to their pay and conditions, so it is no surprise that Doncaster has problems recruiting and retaining staff, and has subsequently been downgraded by Ofsted.”

Ms Robb added: “These unacceptable issues in Doncaster are exacerbated, there and elsewhere, by the single biggest issue currently facing the majority of child protection professionals in England – that social workers are simply not getting time to see children. GPs are not expected to cure people by filling in forms instead of seeing patients, yet social workers remain chained to their desks unable to spend time with vulnerable children who need their support.

“Excessive bureaucracy, deep cuts to support staff and rising caseloads mean that few local authorities in England can say their social workers operate in a suitably safe and acceptable environment.

“Social workers are already at the front line, they know the problems, and they know the solutions, but their voice is still being overlooked by ministers in favour of advice from highly paid consultants, who often lack both experience and expertise.

“We hope that any reforms will properly consult with frontline social workers and enlist their support, rather than be presented as another dictat imposed on an already beleaguered workforce.”

The council said social workers had been overwhelmed by a dramatic rise in the number of cases they have to deal with since the overhaul began.

The number of child protection investigations in the area has trebled in the last two years to almost 1,800 a year.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is expected to announce new measures aimed at improving child protection today.

More follows.