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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
Climbie murder 'will not be the last'
Victoria Climbie
Victoria Climbie died despite contact with social services
It is only a matter of time before there is a repeat of the Victoria Climbie murder, public service union Unison has warned.

It said a chronic shortage of skilled staff and funding has left social workers "stretched beyond the limit".

The union's national officer for social workers, Owen Davies, is expected to call on the government and local authorities to "face up to their responsibilities".

Eight-year-old Victoria died in February 2000 with 128 injuries on her body - inflicted by her great-aunt Marie Therese Kouao and Kouao's boyfriend, Carl Manning.

Regular contact

Reporting to a workshop into the inquiry in London into Victoria's death Mr Davies was due to say: "Crisis management is the day-to-day reality of staff working in social services and they are being stretched beyond the limit.

Victoria and her great-aunt Kouao
Kouao systematically abused Victoria
"There is no doubt in my mind that these factors played a key part in the case of Victoria Climbie and I fear that unless urgent action is taken, it is only a matter of time before another child is murdered."

Victoria was killed despite regular contact with four local authorities, two police child protection teams, two hospitals and social workers.

A Unison survey on typical working conditions in social services teams backs Mr Owen's assertions.

Six out of 10 social workers said that even if all of the many vacant posts in the profession were filled there would still not be enough staff.

An overwhelming majority of 96% said case loads were too heavy, while 88% said new staff were "thrown in at the deep end".

More than nine out of ten reported acute levels of stress and staff "burn-out", while a similar number said they had to take work home.

The survey was sent to the 120 Unison local authority branches with members in social services children and families teams, and 53 replies were received.

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Unison's national officer, Owen Davies
"We fear that it could happen again"

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