Calls for ‘urgent review’ of Leeds children’s services as high staff turnover revealed
Conservative councillors in Leeds have called for an “urgent review” of issues within the city’s children’s services, which has seen nearly 50 social workers depart this year.
Social workers have lodged a grievance with council bosses over their workloads, the trade union UNISON confirmed on Wednesday.
The council refused to comment on the grievance when the issue was raised at a scrutiny meeting earlier this month, amid claims overworked staff feel unable to guarantee the safety of some of the city’s most vulnerable children.
But speaking at a full council meeting on Wednesday afternoon, executive member for children and families, Councillor Fiona Venner, admitted staff had expressed concerns over their caseloads.
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She promised a report on the matter would be published soon, but suggested workloads and high turnover within the service were due to the underfunding of social work nationally.
Coun Venner also pointed to Ofsted’s recent grading of Leeds’ children’s services as ‘outstanding’.
But Conservative Opposition leader, Councillor Andrew Carter, said he wanted “answers” over issues within the service.
He said: “I’m now informed of multiple grievances made by frontline social workers regarding their ability to assure the safeguarding of children.
“History has shown what happens when local authorities use their Ofsted judgement as a shield and a suit of armour.
“Telford, recently in the press over a scandal over its refusal to investigate child sexual abuse, was two years ago judged outstanding by Ofsted.
“We should surely realise that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
“We want an urgent review of the issues I’ve raised here today. All of us in here have a responsibility.”
Councillor Venner confirmed that 49 social workers had left the department this calendar year, while there are currently 37 vacancies within the service.
However, she said that “reflects a national challenge in recruiting social workers” and insisted the council was “not complacent” about keeping children safe.
But she added: “If Ofsted had any concerns about children in Leeds we wouldn’t have got an ‘outstanding’ result.
“We wouldn’t have achieved this judgement if we weren’t open, self-reflective and a positive employer, as well as delivering effective services to children.”