"Inadequate" Children's Services staff "strongly encouraged" to leave their roles, says Councillor

Social workers are being strongly encouraged to leave their roles at the county councils failing childrens services despite staff shortages, it has been claimed.
Social workers are being strongly encouraged to leave their roles at the county councils failing childrens services despite staff shortages, it has been claimed.

Social workers are being “strongly encouraged” to leave their roles at the county council’s failing children’s services despite staff shortages, it has been claimed.

East Wycombe Independent councillor on Bucks County Council (BCC), Julia Wassell, said she “understands” both social workers and social work managers are being urged to leave their roles as part of an overhaul of the failing service.

The children’s services were rated “inadequate” last year after “critical weaknesses” were found during an Ofsted inspection.

The latest monitoring report published in January found there are still inconsistencies within the service – as social workers have been left with large caseloads due to a high turnover of staff.

Cllr Wassell said it is “worrying” to hear the council’s actions could lead to more vacancies in the face of ongoing staff shortages.

In a written question to BCC’s cabinet member for children’s services, Warren Whyte, Cllr Wassell said: “Members of the council are regularly informed about vacancy levels, so it is worrying to hear of actions which will lead to more vacancies, lack of continuity for vulnerable children and a possible negative perception of BCC as an employer.

“There are surely systems in place for appraisal and effective performance management? Please give us a clear picture of what is happening and the number of vacancies currently.”

Cllr Whyte said a “key priority” for the children’s services is to “have social workers who know what good practice looks like” – adding there are currently 28 vacancies out of 323 posts.

He said: “You will appreciate that it is not appropriate to discuss the circumstances of individual members of staff.

“It is the case, however, that social work staff and managers are strongly encouraged to do everything they can to improve outcomes for the children and young people we serve.

“This includes making best use of the council’s performance management processes. A key priority for children’s services is to have social workers who know what good practice looks like.”

January’s Ofsted letter recognised there had been a “high turnover of staff” within the children’s services due to ongoing work to “tackle quality, performance and capability issues”.

The letter states: “Leaders’ work to tackle quality, performance and capability issues has resulted in a high turnover of staff, in social worker and managerial positions.

“This has created considerable shortfalls in capacity in some parts of the service, leading to high caseloads.

“Some children’s cases are allocated to managers, and the children are visited by duty social workers, while waiting allocation to a social worker.

“This makes it difficult for children to build meaningful relationships with social workers.”