Plans to slash Wakefield social worker caseloads approved

Ofsted said that social workers in Wakefield had too much work to do.
Ofsted said that social workers in Wakefield had too much work to do.

Social workers in Wakefield cannot be expected to continue working with high caseloads, the councillor in charge of children's services has said.

The local authority has approved plans to nearly double the department's workforce in a bid to tackle the crisis within the service.

Ofsted was heavily critical of staffing levels as it rated the district's children's services inadequate in July. Inspectors found that workers were being too many individual cases, leading to serious gaps in the service's delivery and resulting in vulnerable children being left at risk.

The council's Cabinet has now agreed to put an extra £4m into the department, in a move which will see more than 180 social workers employed if the service is fully staffed.

Speaking at a meeting on Tuesday, portfolio holder for children and young people Margaret Isherwood suggested that the way the service was originally set up is now outdated.

She said: "One of the problems identified by Ofsted was the high caseloads for our social workers.

"When the original locality teams (who deal with cases) were set up, it was envisaged there would be 1,400 open cases per year.

"It's now been anticipated that we're going to have something in the region of 2,500 open cases a year.

"We can't expect our social workers to continue working with the high caseloads they've been working with. We need to reduce them, especially for those who are newly qualified."

A government commissioner is currently inspecting the council's reaction to Ofsted's findings and will report later this month.

If he is satisfied with progress being made in children's services he is likely to allow the local authority to continue running the service.

Alternatively, he may recommend that it is privatised, or the government could step in and take over it themselves.