Emma warns Minister of risk to children as trainee social workers ‘plug gaps’ in child protection

June 17, 2014

130711 - Emma Lerwell Buck MP smallOn Monday Emma raised the important issue of cuts to children’s social work in Parliament, telling the House of Commons that trainee social workers were being used to fill the gaps left in underfunded departments, and asked to do tasks that should be the role of fully qualified staff.

The concerns were raised with Emma by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), who report that inexperienced social work students were being asked to cover the work of absent full-time colleagues, and were being included on emergency duty teams asked to deal with serious cases.  Having an inexperienced person dealing with these cases could potentially put children at risk.

The recent report into social work education by Sir Martin Narey said that many student placements offered to social workers in training were not suitable, and called for improvements in the quality and quantity of placements.

Emma said:

“Sir Martin Narey’s report rightly recognises the importance of quality social work placements. Is the Minister therefore concerned by reports that trainee social workers are instead being used to plug gaps left by the Government’s cuts to children’s services and provide cover for fully qualified colleagues? Does he agree that that is neither good for social workers’ development, nor for at-risk children?“

The Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson, replied:

“I am always concerned when newly qualified social workers find themselves in a difficult professional position, whereby they feel stretched by the case they are having to deal with. That is why we have provided a large amount of money to ensure that their first year is supported by the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment programme, and why we are making sure that the £239 million we have already invested in social work training will be supplemented by the work of Sir Martin Narey and the chief social worker.“

But the Minister’s response did not address the important concerns about cuts to social services, which have severely stretched local services and led to trainees carrying out tasks that should only be performed by fully qualified professionals.

Speaking after Education Questions, Emma said:

“The Minister did not address the real issue, which is that funding cuts to children’s services means departments don’t have the resources needed to do their jobs.  That is why we have seen departments using trainees to fill in the gaps. Not only is this stressful for trainees, it reduces their likelihood of remaining in the profession and places already vulnerable children and families at risk’

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