Cardiff Council have made funding available for eight new social services staff but more than 80 social worker posts remain vacant or filled by agency staff
Of the 357 social worker posts at Cardiff Council, 41 are vacant and agency staff fill 40. The council made funding available for additional social worker posts this financial year following a damning report into its children’s services.
The funding is to increase the number of social workers available at the Intake and Assessment service, and the executive’s budget for 2012/13 included provision to continue this funding.
The January report by the council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee condemned the working conditions of its social workers revealing that some social workers had a caseload of up to 40 when the advised number is between 15 and 20.
The investigation came in response to documents leaked by social workers in November last year warning they were so overwhelmed they feared it could result in the death of a child.
Of the 156 social worker posts at Cardiff’s children’s services 20 are vacant and agency staff fill 30. In Adult Services 20 of the 197 posts are vacant, 10 are filled by agency staff and one of the four social worker posts in Housing and Neighbourhood Renewal is vacant.
Robin Moulster, of the British Association of Social Workers Cymru, said: “I sent Cardiff Council some caseload management tools to help support their social workers after a request from one of the Council’s Executive Board Members. I never heard another thing. Nor have I heard anything about a request by BASW Cymru to meet with social workers in Cardiff to look at how we, as the professional association for social work in Wales, can support them. Again I had no reply from management.”
“Permanent social workers can develop lasting relationships with clients and their families as they are usually in post more than a few weeks or months. Agency staff are beneficial to plugging very short term gaps but cost considerably more as they may be paid more to account for a lack of benefits permanent staff receive, such as holiday leave, and agency fees.
“For the benefits of service users, their families, colleagues and the service in general there needs to be a fully employed complement of permanent staff. There will always be vacancies but I would expect this to be 5 per cent or less if there is good management support and a positive management culture in the service.”
Cardiff Council said: “Cardiff Council has taken actions to address the need for extra staff and ensure resources are available to meet the demands on the service. A detailed review of processes has been undertaken by senior management who have introduced some changes to ease pressures some areas and are continuing to review the allocation of cases to ensure there are sufficient members of staff available to handle the cases.
“The changes are expected to result in staff being better placed to complete work within time-scales. The £250,000 allocated to appoint the extra Social Workers will help ensure that the Intake and Assessment service is resourced to deal with the increased case loads.”
The council pointed to the increase in referrals, especially in children’s services which saw an increase of 19 per cent in 2010/11.
Mark Drakeford, Chair of the Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee, said: “The reputation of Cardiff social service department has not had a great record and that gets out amongst the professional class. The places that manage the best are the places where people want to work.
“We have got to work collaboratively with the social workers around us and to let new social workers feel that they will be supported and supervised from people who have done the job before.”
Prof Drakeford, AM for Cardiff West, added: “Social workers have no time to do prevention work which would stem the flow cases. The real challenge for local authorities is to find ways of re-engineering their social services so they are not overwhelmed by the consequences of failure and that is where we have gone wrong.
“We need to find time to make the conditions for the development of success. With a bit of extra help they might be able to better manage themselves. The Baby P effect has meant preventative services are being put behind services dealing with rehabilitation services. It turns into a treadmill of sorts which you can’t get off.”