One in seven children’s social workers quit the profession last year amid a spike in violent youth crime.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner called the drop-off rate a “national scandal” as hard-up social workers’ caseloads are left overflowing, due both to a scourge of gang violence and poverty-stricken families struggling to cope with life on the edge.
Speaking at the Local Government Association conference in Birmingham, Rayner highlighted Department for Education statistics which showed 4,500 left the profession last year and the turnover rate of children’s social workers is now 50% higher than in 2011.
Of those leaving, 63% of the full-time professionals had been in the job for less than five years.
The figures follow the launch of the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy, which highlights the “vital” role of social services in tackling serious violence, but offered no new money for police forces or councils’ children’s services.
Rayner told the International Conference Centre the “shocking figures” should be blamed on “Tory cuts, privatisation and mismanagement” as she called for social workers to be handed a “sustainable deal on pay”.
“If this was happening in our schools or universities it would be a national scandal,” she said.
“But because it happens in local councils and affects the most vulnerable children it has not captured the minds of Westminster and Whitehall.
“It is unacceptable, and does a gross disservice to the incredible work of social workers in each and every council.
“Social workers are at the front line of protecting the most vulnerable children in society. Those children and their families need continuity of care from experienced staff, and they simply won’t get it if there is a high level of turnover as social workers are forced out of the profession at this rate.”
The government’s figures also show that the number of referrals to children’s social services has increased by 24,650 in the past year alone – an increase of 4%.
The majority of referrals came from the police, with domestic violence aimed at children or other adults in the household the most common factor identified for children in need.
It comes on the same day Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, warned that more than two million children in England are growing up in families where there are serious risks.
In a report which laid bare the scale of demand, her study estimated that 2.1 million of England’s 11.8 million children, nearly one in six, are living in families with risks so serious that they need some level of help.