Child protection faces staff crisis.
CHILD protection services in England are struggling in the face of a huge shortage of social workers, a survey revealed today.
Directors of social services have warned of severe pressures because of problems recruiting and retaining skilled and experienced staff.
According to the survey of social services departments in England by 78 authorities, there was a 14.7 per cent vacancy rate of established social worker posts in July.
This is equivalent to over 2,000 unfilled posts.
The shortage of experienced managers was slightly less severe, with a little under nine per cent of posts vacant.
The figures were revealed today at a briefing session in advance of Lord Laming's inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Victoria Climbie.
Victoria, aged eight, died of neglect while under the care of her aunt and her partner, despite the involvement of social services, police and the NHS. Marie Therese Kouao, Victoria's aunt, and Carl Manning, Kouao's boyfriend, were jailed for life in January for the murder of the girl in Tottenham, London, in February 2000.
The youngster, who had been sent to live with Kouao 12 months earlier, had 128 separate injuries on her body and died from multiple organ failure, malnutrition and neglect.
Association of Directors of Social Services president Moira Gibb said the picture represented by the survey was "grim".
She added: "We do not have the full quota of skilled and experienced social workers that we so desperately need in order to give every vulnerable child the full protection he or she needs.
"The net we use in order to catch and support children and families in distress is being stretched far too tightly. There is a very real danger of some of them falling through."
The survey also found that some authorities are concerned that long- serving, experienced staff are being replaced by unqualified or newly qualified social workers.