Page last updated at 07:51 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Jobs plea to ex-social workers

Baby P
Baby P died from abuse despite 60 visits from authorities

Recently retired social workers are being urged to return to the profession in a bid to solve staff shortages.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is launching a campaign to recruit social workers for children as it fears shortages could put youngsters at risk.

The LGA worries that cases such as that of Baby P will make it harder to attract and retain staff.

The LGA, which hopes to tempt back 5,000 ex-social workers, says 10% of posts in the profession are unfilled.

Baby P died in August 2007 at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger - despite being on the child protection register and receiving 60 contacts from the authorities over eight months.

The LGA said it feared such cases could reduce respect for social workers, prompting current staff to leave and putting off new candidates.

Being a child social worker is one of the toughest jobs in Britain
LGA chairman Margaret Eaton

Its report, Respect and Protect, said: "The fallout from the devastating case of Baby P is still being felt.

"Historical evidence shows that as respect for child social workers declines, people who were looking at child protection as their chosen career think again.

"Many long-standing experienced professionals may also decide enough is enough and leave.

"Just when we need to be tightening the safety net to do our best never to repeat the mistakes that contributed to the death of Baby P, there becomes an increased danger that the gaps widen as people decide it's time to get out."

'Tireless work'

Helga Pile, of the social workers' union Unison, said that the Baby P case had impacted on recruitment and public perception of social workers.

"There is a feeling I think that conditions they're working under mean that they can't be confident that they've necessarily got a handle on all their cases," she said.

"And the other big fall-out from it has been a rise in the number of sort of assaults, abuse and threats that our members are facing out there from members of the public."

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Launching the recruitment campaign, LGA chairman Margaret Eaton said: "In the short term we must encourage up to 5,000 recently retired child social work professionals back to the front line to help keep children safe.

"Being a child social worker is one of the toughest jobs in Britain. Encouraging back those who have been at the front line tirelessly working to save the lives of vulnerable children is key to helping plug the gaps and ensure that we, as a nation, can do everything we can to keep them safe.

"It is a tough job to do, and for councils it is the toughest job to fill."

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