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Ofsted highlights 'climate of turbulence' that many social workers have known for too long

Responding to the publication of Ofsted’s first Social Care Annual Report following the end of the first full three-year cycle of inspections across local authorities in England, Bridget Robb, the Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said:

“The Government’s own inspection agency is today confirming what social workers have known for too long, that they are forced to operate in a ‘climate of turbulence, increased workloads and intense scrutiny’.

“No social worker wants to say ‘I told you so’ when it means they’ve had to endure depressingly challenging working environments for far too long and when in too many cases those same dismal conditions are persisting now and showing no sign of abatement.

“It is a sad reality though that in March 2012 a BASW poll of 1,100 members found 77% concerned about unmanageable caseloads and 46% afraid to speak out because of the fear of repercussions. It is why MPs responded to our request to hold an inquiry into the state of social work, the outcome of which we hope will be published soon.

“Ofsted has rightly highlighted a lack of ‘stable leadership’ as a significant contributory cause of the chaotic and challenging working environments in which far too many children’s social workers are forced to operate.

“However, it is essential that the response to this report is not yet more blame, yet more instability and yet more changes in leadership.

“As this report rightly highlights, there are real dangers in leadership churn and a public scrutiny that produces more hand-wringing and anxiety than the additional support and resources that child protection professionals actually need.

“We must not forget that there is good news in this report, including reference to improving 'trends in child deaths and outcomes for looked after children', those local authorities that are managing to offer a good service for vulnerable children, and improvements in children’s homes and other regulated services such as adoption and fostering.

"To ensure such improvements are entrenched it is right that Ofsted has set out plans to set more rigorous requirements for residential children's homes - as opposed to 'minimum standards' - and to be more demanding of safeguarding children boards in making them subject to review, just as local authorities face inspections.   

“Nonetheless, the red alert Ofsted has placed on too many councils is the most glaring aspect of this publication, and it is now for elected politicians at all levels to reflect on the climate – financial and political – in which local authority leaders are compelled to operate and to find answers that go beyond any more reviews or cosmetic shake-ups.”

Read the Ofsted report here