Some West Sussex social workers ‘not up to the job’ - managers claim

Chilldren's social services in West Sussex have been rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted
Chilldren's social services in West Sussex have been rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted

West Sussex County Council will take ‘assertive action’ to sift out social workers who are not up to the job.

The news was shared at a scrutiny meeting days after Ofsted published a damning report into the council’s inadequate children’s services.

The trade union Unison said staff would take the news as a ‘kick in the teeth’ and accused the authority of passing the blame for the poor report down the chain of command.

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Sarah Daly, the council’s head of children’s social care, told the meeting: “We know that we have social workers within our department who are probably not able to do the job no matter what support we offer.

“We have to work to identify those workers and take the action that we need to take with those workers.”

Ms Daly said support had to be given to workers who were unable to do their jobs because of ‘other impacting factors’ and that it was important to understand the difference between the two.

She added: “We have already started to work closely with colleagues in HR to take assertive action where required with those social workers within who are not performing safely with our children.”

In its report, Ofsted described most social work practice in West Sussex as ‘weak’, adding: “Continual turnover in the workforce and high caseloads severely limit the local authority’s ability to achieve a consistently acceptable standard of social work practice.”

It was a point raised by Caroline Fife, Unison regional organiser.

She said: “Social workers are facing huge demands with ever increasing caseloads and more complex needs.”

She added that the union had not been told that there was any need for action to be taken against any staff.

There was a Unison representative present at the meeting when Ofsted’s report was discussed.

Ms Fife said: “The council’s top managers spent close to zero time in the select committee fronting up for the failures of strategic leadership which Ofsted laid out so clearly.

“Yet they have accused staff of not being able to do the job before they have even properly examined all the factors that makes social work so difficult in the current funding climate and specifically at West Sussex.

“It smacks of a desire to pass the blame down the chain of command.”