Front Line Social Workers Left Feeling Powerless in Child Neglect Cases

Posted on June 1st, 2010

Action for Children, formerly known as NCH, released figures this week showing that front line Social Workers and Police officers often feel powerless to intervene in cases of child neglect.  The children’s charity surveyed 490 Social Workers and Police officers from across the UK.

The survey revealed that 16% of Social Workers reported a rise in the number of cases of suspected child neglect over the last year.  This is supported by a report by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, which stated that the number of cases where members of the public and other professionals had brought children to the attention of Social Workers had risen by 25% since the death of ‘Baby P’ 2 years ago.

The research also reported that 37% of the professionals surveyed felt that they had been unable to tackle suspected child neglect early enough to protect the children involved.  50% said early intervention was vital to adequately protect vulnerable children.  Nearly 60% of those surveyed also said that the amount of paperwork, coupled with staff shortages was preventing them from spending enough time with families.

Hugh Thornberry, Director of Children’s Services at Action for Children said, “The threshold for intervention is not a clearly defined line because the symptoms of neglect are chronic rather than acute; professionals on the ground are telling us that they report cases to local child service departments, then have to stand back and watch as nothing happens…  In acute cases of abuse, where there is an unexplained injury, help will be given very quickly, but children suffering ongoing, chronic cases of neglect slip under the radar”.

Colin Green, head of policy for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ safeguarding and child protection team said “The problem is that workload is up in all categories of child protection.  The debate we need to have is about capacity in a very stressed system where tough decisions have to be made based on priorities.”

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One Response to “Front Line Social Workers Left Feeling Powerless in Child Neglect Cases”

  1. Ruth White Says:
    June 2nd, 2010 at 5:00 am

    Wouldn’t this problem also be related to child welfare workers not having the proper tools to address problems related to neglect such as child care vouchers, housing, and income assistance? Could that explain the frustration of frontline workers as well?

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