The head of Rotherham’s children’s services proudly revealed this week that the authority has just a handful of social worker vacancies—down from almost 50 less than a year ago.
Joyce Thacker said that workers were better supported and trained in safeguarding children than when the department was slapped with a Government notice to improve.
Initial assessments of at-risk youngsters are also done more promptly, Ofsted said in awarding Rotherham Borough Council’s safeguarding and looked-after services an improved “adequate” rating.
The team has been restructured so social workers can concentrate on either new referrals or children already being looked after.
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Family group conferences have been re-introduced to explore solutions with relatives—staying with grandparents at weekends, for example—and avoid taking youngsters into care.
But Ms Thacker warned that potential budget cuts could hamper progress.
The Government’s comprehensive spending review is likely to chop a sizeable chunk from the department’s spending options, and Ms Thacker said there would be job losses.
“What I’m committed to is protecting our most vulnerable,” she added. “We are doing projections at the moment, but it could be ten, 20, 30 per cent of our budget. There is a danger that it could affect our improvements. That does concern me.”