Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 15:57 UK

Child social workers 'overloaded'

Baby Peter
Baby Peter's death prompted another review of England's social services

Child social workers in Sheffield have too many cases to handle and two thirds of them are inexperienced, an internal review has found.

The review was carried out in the wake of Baby Peter's death in north London.

It said social work practices involving children were "inconsistent" and there were not enough resources to monitor all youngsters aged under three.

A spokesman said the service started the review so it could find ways to improve and changes were being made.

A copy of the review, obtained by BBC Radio Sheffield, said "inexperienced and newly-qualified social workers make up two-thirds of the social work establishment in the fieldwork service".

It also said "caseload allocation to some of Sheffield's social workers is high and the ongoing monitoring and auditing capacity of front-line managers needs increasing".

'Strong service'

Dr Sonia Sharp, executive director of children's and young people's services at Sheffield City Council, said the department had been "very proactive" by commissioning the review.

She said: "We started 18 months ago, looking at how we could improve our services. We do not want to be complacent on this, we're determined to have the best safeguarding practice we possibly can."

Dr Sharp said there was shortage of social workers nationally so the service had to take on new recruits who were well-trained and supported by experienced colleagues.

She said: "It's a tightrope of judgement that they walk all the time and we have to make sure we put around them the safety nets, the best quality safety nets we can, to support them in those decisions and to keep children safe."

Dr Sharp said there were "inconsistencies" in the service's practices and it was working on a list of recommended improvements.

The service has to report its progress to the council's chief executive once a month.


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