'Staff turnover to blame for unstable child social worker provision,' committee hears

Havering Town Hall plans

Havering Town Hall - Credit: Ken Mears

High staff turnover is to blame for the council’s unstable provision of child social workers, a committee heard. 

A report presented at the children and learning overview and scrutiny sub-committee on Tuesday, November 23, revealed the percentage of children in care with two or more changes of social worker in the past 12 months was 22.4 per cent. 

This was significantly higher than the 15 per cent target for the year, as well as a decline in performance on the previous quarter (10.9pc) and the same quarter in the previous year (11.7pc). 

The report, covering July to September, said the summer period had seen “significant turnover of staff” and noted the council currently had 36 agency staff covering posts as well as two vacant posts. 

Robert South, director of children’s social care, said there was a “well established programme to recruit new social workers” and added the frontline teams were about two thirds filled with permanent staff. 

He said: “What’s happened in some of those teams is we have seen more turnover than we have in recent years as we’ve come towards the latter end of the pandemic experience.  

“We think that some of that is related to the fact that some of our staff have been disconnected with their usual face-to-face support.” 

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The department also failed to meet its target on the percentage of children in care who ceased to be “looked after” as a result of adoption or special guardianship order. 

In the second quarter of 2021/22, 10.2pc of children fell into this category, lower than the council’s target of 14pc and below the latest London average of 15pc. 

The council met its target for the number of children in care under 16 who have been looked after continuously for at least two and a half years and living in the same placement for at least two – 65.2pc fell into this category, just above the annual target of 65pc. 

Mr South also noted 11 foster carers had been recruited so far this year – more than double the tally at the same time last year. 

“We are also seeing enquiries rise and we believe that’s connected with the improved offer that we’ve made to foster carers, that was approved by cabinet in July this year,” he said. 

This comes after leader Damian White dismissed concerns about staffing shortages at Havering Council despite the political opposition claiming the borough is "on the brink of crisis".