It seems to be, yet again, a matter of postcode lotteries. Some local authorities achieve good results but others often fail.
Social workers are mostly dedicated professionals, but they are struggling to cope with a rising tide of single teenage pregnancy, broken marriages, deprivation and addiction. There is no organised approach for tackling the roots of these problems, rather than the consequences. As the situation worsens, case loads are so heavy and the job so stressful that many leave the profession. At any time, numerous posts are unfilled and authorities have to rely on agency workers. No wonder 50% of children in the system felt that their social worker didn’t really care about them.
A new dreadful twist to this worsening situation has come. Earlier this year the Government raised the cost of instigating care proceedings from £150 to a staggering £4,000. Kent County Council warned them of the danger that this could make councils think twice before going down that route.
Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice has pinpointed the aspects of our care system that need overhauling. We need to focus on whole families, offering support earlier when problems arise; more of the support funding should be delivered through charities with a successful record of providing support for families, foster carers, mental health services and addiction treatments and rehabilitation.
We must support the social care workforce better and look again at the family courts; current legislation should be better implemented and – above all – local authorities must be held accountable for their failures.