Sickness absence among Wakefield’s social workers has gone up since Ofsted’s inadequate rating

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Sickness absence has gone up among Wakefield social workers since the district’s children’s services was rated inadequate.

The council is trying to turn around the failing service, which Ofsted said in July was leaving vulnerable youngsters at risk.

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The local authority is trying to recruit more staff to deal with the burden of heavy caseloads, which was identified by the education regulator as one of many issues within the system. 

As a result the service is still reliant on agency workers, with several workers having left as a result of the findings.

Despite target a cut in the number of cases per social worker to 25, children’s services director Beate Wagner said that the average staff member currently has around 30.

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In a verbal report to the children and young people scrutiny committee on Wednesday, Ms Wagner admitted that the “unstable” situation had hit staff morale.

She said: “In terms of the impact, both the focused visit letter (from Ofsted in March) and the inadequate inspection have had an impact on our staff.

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“Although this is a joint responsibilty and not about individuals not trying their best, it’s very personal for staff to hear that children in Wakefield aren’t safe, or that we can’t ensure that they’re safe.

“It has had an impact on sickness and people leaving. We need to try and stabilise that.”

Ms Wagner said that the process of changing the “culture” of the department was already underway in a bid to make staff feel better supported.

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But she added that anecdotal evidence from some current workers that they enjoyed being part of the team, suggested a “mixed picture”.

She said: “One of the key issues is how managers are providing feedback and we’re encouraging people to raise issues, rather than feel they have to keep things to themselves.

“The issue of culture is a long-term one.”