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BASW: Coventry's Ofsted findings are part of a national picture

Commenting on today's Ofsted report describing the effectiveness of the Local Safeguarding Children Board in Coventry as 'inadequate', following the tragic death of Daniel Pelka in 2012, BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb said:

"This report into Coventry children's services must be seen as yet another wake up call that social worker caseloads in front line child protection teams are creating unacceptable levels of risk to vulnerable children.

"BASW has been warning of this for years. A BASW survey of social workers in March 2012, the same month Daniel died, found that 77% of the 1,100 professionals polled felt their caseloads were unmanageable.

"The situation in Coventry is part of a national picture. This latest report must not be used as yet another political football to undermine the city's social workers or the profession as a whole.

"Coventry is trying hard to improve and the report finds positivity in the new leadership of the service. Social workers should not be deterred from working in Coventry.

"The cause and effect is clear – referral rates are up by 48% in two years, social workers in Coventry have such heavy caseloads they can't do their jobs properly and, as a result, children who need protection are not being seen or assessed quickly enough.

"This is unacceptable but its origins lie in a toxic combination of social work teams operating in overstretched councils and austerity-hit communities, as well as a fear of using professional discretion in the aftermath of criticism following a high profile tragedy, leading to ever rising referral rates. Social workers and managers can't cope under the weight of political and economic pressures.

"No one could, including the Department for Education, which has today been linked with taking over Coventry children's services as a result of its travails.

"We know this situation is not new, and that it has been compounded by the impact on councils and on communities of ongoing austerity policies. The solution lies in a sustained commitment to the social work profession, building on its strengths instead of using findings such as Ofsted's today to target ideological or structural issues that are not the root cause of the failings."