Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 12:16 UK

Academy for social workers opens

Lord Laming
Lord Laming has spent his whole career in social work

A peer who headed inquiries into two high profile child abuse cases has opened an academy for social workers.

Lord Laming, Chief Inspector of the Social Services Inspectorate between 1991 and 1998, welcomed the academy for newly qualified staff in Hertfordshire.

The academy addresses recommendations made with regard to supporting newly qualified social workers.

"It provides an environment where newly qualified social workers can develop essential skills," Lord Laming said.

"Among these are knowledge, skills, confidence, courage and ability to cope with difficult and emotional case loads," he said.

In his report into the Victoria Climbie case, Lord Laming said: "Social workers must have guaranteed support and supervision during their first year to enable them to develop their skills and their confidence as a professional in a relatively safe learning environment.

The first year for newly qualified staff is so crucial
Louise Purser
Hertfordshire County Council

"They must also have exposure to children in complex and difficult circumstances."

Victoria Climbie, from the Ivory Coast, was subjected to brutal treatment and abuse by a couple who were her guardians.

She was murdered by her great-aunt Marie Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning in Haringey, north London.

The pair are serving life sentences for her murder in 2000.

Baby Peter Connelly was a 17-month-old toddler who died in Haringey, north London, in the care of mother Tracey Connelly, 28, her partner Steven Barker, 33, and Barker's brother Jason Owen, 37.

Connelly, Barker and Owen received minimum prison terms of five, 12 and three years respectively for causing or allowing Peter's death in December 2008.

In both cases social workers and procedures in council care departments were criticised.

Hertfordshire are attempting to tackle the issues at an early stage in workers' careers by setting up the academy.

"The first year for newly qualified staff is so crucial," said Louise Purser, the county council's head of social care learning.

"This way of easing into their role will give them the confidence and guidance to be really great social workers. And you won't find it anywhere else."

Social work career

Newly qualified staff work with reduced caseloads, and are supervised by specially recruited team managers who give training and support.

David Lloyd, the council's executive member for economic wellbeing, said: "Social work is a profession of huge value which transforms lives, but it is demanding and we have to provide the resources staff need to do a great job."

Lord Laming has a long association with Hertfordshire and with social work as a profession.

William Herbert Laming, born in 1936 in Newcastle upon Tyne, studied at Durham University in 1960 and later qualified as a probation officer and a psychiatric social worker.

He later became assistant chief probation officer in Nottinghamshire from 1968-71.

In 1971, he was appointed deputy director of social services in Hertfordshire and set up the newly formed social services department, becoming its director four years later and serving until 1991.

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