Concern over lack of staff qualifications

GOVERNMENT inspectors have flagged up concerns that un-qualified social workers have been handling complex tasks involving children across the county. The worries, which included the way the work was routinely overseen and monitored by managers, were high

GOVERNMENT inspectors have flagged up concerns that un-qualified social workers have been handling complex tasks involving children across the county.

The worries, which included the way the work was routinely overseen and monitored by managers, were highlighted by seven inspectors who spent three weeks scrutinising the county's children and young people's services.

While they praised many aspects of the service, they found that Cambridgeshire County Council employed 11 per cent fewer qualified social workers than the agreed level.

Increased case referral rates added to the pressures facing the service, the Joint Area Review report found.


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The inspectors, drawn from OfSTED, the Commission for Social Care, the Healthcare Commission, the Adult Learning Inspectorate and the Audit Commission, recommended that the council review its risk assessment procedures for using unqualified social workers.

"There are concerns about the complexity of some work carried out by unqualified staff and how this work is routinely overseen and monitored by managers," said the report.

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It added that the cost of recruiting agency staff to make up the shortfall was high at more than £480,000.

Charlotte Black, Cambridgeshire County Council's area director of children and young people's services, who is leading the recruitment and retention of social workers, said the timing of the report was "unfortunate".

She said: "The report was a helpful reminder at a time when our vacancy rate for qualified social workers was higher than it is now.

"We have a very strict system where unqualified social workers have formal and informal supervision and they co-work alongside experienced staff. Some of them want to become social workers and they have a role to play. Our view is that our current arrangements are pretty good."

She added that new qualified social workers had been recruited recently and, if everything went to plan, the council would be staffed to full capacity in January.

Other findings in the report included praise for CCC's work to reduce rates of smoking, alcohol misuse and pregnancy rates amongst youngsters.

Inspectors also found that children and young people showed a strong sense of pride in their schools and local communities, and that the rate of youth crime remains low and children and young people are less likely to become the victims of crime than in other comparable areas.

In the longer term, the authority and its partners were told to review how they delivered services to children with complex needs, to clarify funding for voluntary organisations and to increase the provision of work-placed learning opportunities.

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