Date: Friday 27 March
The social work inspection system is failing to address the chronic shortage of resources in child protection services, UNISON, the union representing the vast majority of Scotland's social services staff, will tell a Child Protection Conference in Edinburgh today (27 March).
"While it is right that high standards are expected in child protection, they cannot be achieved without the tools to do the job", said John Stevenson, a member of UNISON Scotland's Social Work Issues Group who will be a panel member in one of the conference sessions.
In the wake of the 'Baby P' tragedy and inspection reports in Scotland, the Holyrood conference, The future of child protection in Scotland - the role of social services will discuss the 'systemic' changes needed throughout Scotland's children's services.
"It is right that we look at systems. It is right that we inspect and improve practice to make children safer. But it misses the point totally if we do not address the root problem of too few resources to match too many children at risk", said Mr Stevenson.
"You only have to divide the number of children assessed as being in need with the number of social workers available across Scotland to see where the problem lies. Our members want to work to high standards. They want to be accountable and most of all they want to protect children. But they tell us that too often they are being asked to do this with one hand tied behind their back".
"Inspections rightly point to practice and leadership issues but they never explicitly address resources. To ignore the fact that there are too few people to achieve the standards we all want just covers up the problem", he added.
A UNISON UK-wide survey of social work staff, published in January 2009, identified reduced resources, staff vacancies, increased caseloads, inadequate supervision, remote leadership, lack of focus on the rights of the child, agencies passing the buck to social work and excessive bureaucracy with a lack of admin support as issues making things worse than they were six years ago.
Notes for Editors:
1) the Holyrood Conference takes place in The Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh.
2) The UNISON survey is announced on http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/news/2009/janfeb/2601.htm , and available on http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/B4416.pdf