Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

Social work recruitment struggle

Serious case reviews into the deaths of seven children have been ordered

High-profile failings in Doncaster's children's services are making it hard to recruit social workers, according to the chair of the safeguarding board.

An Ofsted report last year called for urgent improvements after rating child protection in the town as "inadequate".

One concern was a dependency on agency staff due to high staff turnover rates.

Roger Thompson, chairman of Doncaster's Local Safeguarding Children Board, said improvements were being made but it was a "long, slow process".

Mr Thompson, who was appointed in April, said: "There are things which are improving and I'm independent of the council so I'm pleased to be able to say that."

There has been that much bad publicity that if you are a social worker looking for permanent employment then it's unlikely you're going to work at Doncaster
Robin Symonds, Unison

He added: "There are still agency workers but much less. The council wants to make sure we get permanent staff on board.

"It's a long, slow process and of course where there are adverse concerns about Doncaster that doesn't help in recruitment."

The Ofsted report, which was published in December 2008, said of the 317 children on the local protection register, one in four had not been allocated a social worker.

Case reviews

Earlier this year, a survey by social care magazine Community Care found that 19% of children's social work posts were vacant in Doncaster as of 31 January.

The council has also been hit by severe criticisms of its safeguarding performance in serious case reviews, which have been ordered into the deaths of seven children in the area since 2004.

Robin Symonds, regional organiser for Unison which represents some council workers, said: "The media spotlight has been on Doncaster that much, there has been that much bad publicity that if you are a social worker looking for permanent employment then it's unlikely you're going to work at Doncaster."

Last month, councillors approved a report outlining improvements to be made to the council's Children and Young People's Services department.

The improvement report says a Children's Trust Board will now be set up to monitor the department.

Other measures include compiling monthly progress reports and allocating a social worker to every child on the council's protection register.

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