Drive starts to employ more social workers

The Council House, Doncaster
The Council House, Doncaster

DONCASTER Council’s children’s services department overspent by £2.5 million in the last year, mainly on agency staff.

The authority has now started a recruitment drive to take on around 30 social workers in a bid to improve “stability” in the department as it tries to keep on improving following its takeover by the Government.

A meeting of the school’s children and young people overview and scrutiny committee was told a major area of concern in children’s services was the £2.6 million budget overspend this year. Agency staff accounted for £1.167 million.

Chris Pratt, director of children’s services told the meeting: “The overspend is due to increasing demand for our services.

“More children are being referred to us and the increasing need for support puts pressure on our budget. We are doing all we can to control and reduce spending.”

Staff sickness and training has contributed to a lack of “consistency”, with some youngsters facing having to changing their allocated social workers on a regular basis, a report said.

The Government stepped in to take over control of the department after the Free Press exclusively revealed failings in children’s services following the deaths of seven children who were known to the council.

A criticism of ministers was the lack of permanent social workers.

Last month, Ofsted inspectors published a report rating the service as “adequate” - the second lowest rating - but as having made “significant progress”.

Mr Pratt, told Friday’s meeting: “We are still a service in recovery but we have now been rated as adequate by Ofsted. It’s not a rating to be proud of but it is better than inadequate.

“There is a lot more to do. We’re not complacent though and we need to get the consistency of service that the people of Doncaster deserve.”

The council said it has also a “notable increase” in demand for children social care services, with a 17 per cent increase in child protection plans and a similar increase in the number of children coming into care.

The new vacancies are across a range of levels and include posts in a new intensive support team to help families in crisis situations where children are at immediate risk of being taken into care.