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Social workers are taking on too much'

PUBLISHED: 14:22 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:18 25 August 2010

SOCIAL workers dealing with children at risk claim they have dangerously high workloads and are struggling to cope. Greenwich UNISON suggests a safe caseload is five complex or 12 non-complex cases, but their branch secretary claims workers at Greenwich

SOCIAL workers dealing with children at risk claim they have dangerously high workloads and are struggling to cope.

Greenwich UNISON suggests a safe caseload is five complex or 12 non-complex cases, but their branch secretary claims workers at Greenwich council have been left with up to 20 regardless of their complexity.

But a spokesperson for Greenwich council refused to tell the Times if the department had difficulty recruiting and if a review of caseloads had been launched.

They also refused to disclose how many social workers they now have dealing with children at risk and the amount of vacancies for such posts.

UNISON branch Secretary at Greenwich council Onay Kasab said: "The numbers are based on cases, not specific children, so in other words a case will often involve multiple numbers of children.

"We have social workers telling us that often they are working until midnight undertaking duties such as picking up children or looking for placements.

"We are told that workers are seldom home at a reasonable hour and often do not see their own families. We have examples of workers simply burning out.

"The council have introduced a capability procedure from April 1 this year and we feel that this is being used to manage the situation rather than adequate resources being provided. Workers will be harassed into continuing to work long, unpaid hours to deal with caseloads as a result.

"It is our view that we have a dedicated workforce doing a magnificent job who are totally committed to the children and the service. This explains why they continue to work under such circumstances, but that this can not continue much longer.

"We also accept that this is a national problem, not limited to Greenwich, but somebody, somewhere must take responsibility."

Four black social workers working with children at risk are currently being disciplined under new capability procedures which were brought in across the council.

A spokesperson for Greenwich council said: "We are concerned that UNISON would seek to suggest that children in Greenwich are being put at risk by our plans to further develop the crucial role of our child protection teams.

"In comparison to many boroughs, we have good levels of staff and plans in place to better support our child protection work in the future. A recent unannounced Ofsted inspection found that child protection enquiries are thorough, timely and carried out by well trained and competent social workers. It also states that case files are regularly audited by senior managers and that the needs of children in Greenwich are prioritised at an early stage.

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