Page last updated at 01:40 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 02:40 UK

Plan to fast-track social workers

Baby P
Baby Peter died after months of abuse despite being monitored by officials

Plans for on-the-job training to attract high-quality candidates into social work in the wake of the Baby P case are due to be unveiled.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls will outline the scheme to attract people such as lawyers and teachers to consider a mid-career change.

Up to 200 will get around £15,000 a year to retrain on a fast-track basis.

Baby Peter died in 2007 with more than 50 injuries, despite being on Haringey Council's child protection register.

His death led to much criticism of social workers and exposed the extent of staff shortages in the profession.

Front line

In response, Mr Balls is expected to outline plans to attract potential recruits who might be put off by a three-year unpaid degree.

The fast-track scheme would take around 12 to 18 months to complete.

The devil will be, as always in the detail
Kim Bromley-Derry
President, Association of Directors of Children's Services

Under the initiative, central government will pay for the project, but the new intake will train on-the-job in local authorities for about 200 days - the same as other would-be social workers.

Like all students, because they are not qualified they would not be allowed to or registered to carry their own cases.

Kim Bromley-Derry, president of the Association of Children's Services, said the scheme must not take qualified social workers away from the front line.

He added: "While any initiative that will increase the supply of social workers in the system is welcome, the devil will be, as always in the detail.

"Training new social workers is not cost neutral, even when their salaries are being paid from central funds."

Baby Peter's 27-year-old mother was given an indefinite sentence with a minimum term of five years at the Old Bailey in May after pleading guilty to causing or allowing her son's death.

Her boyfriend, aged 32, was given a 12-year sentence for his role in Peter's death. He was also jailed for life with a minimum term of 10 years for the rape of a two-year-old girl. He is appealing.

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