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Social workers' academy is set up by Tower Hamlets Council to avoid fatal child care mistakes of the past

PUBLISHED: 20:00 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 20:00 12 December 2018

Mayor John Biggs...

Mayor John Biggs... "This academy will make sure we have a supply of trained staff to reduce number of agency people we have to employ." Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A new academy has been opened to recruit and train more desperately-needed social workers in child care to avoid Tower Hamlets Council having to take on agency staff to cope with overloaded casework.

Sir Alan Wood launches Tower Hamlets' social workers' training academy. Picture: LBTHSir Alan Wood launches Tower Hamlets' social workers' training academy. Picture: LBTH

Its launch by Sir Alan Wood, the Directors of Children’s Services Association’s former president, follows years of concern in child care cases up and down the country where neglect and abuse was being missed because of too heavy caseloads and shortage of care workers.

One of the worst cases in London was Alex, a 15-year-old from Stepney in foster care who died in 2012 while detained in youth custody.

He had been abused by a family member which lead to behaviour problems that was missed by social services, Tower Hamlets Safeguarding Children’s Board reported at the time.

A “catalogue of 11 failings” by child care services was blamed for the fostered teenager found hanged which included a lack of capacity and skills for children who have been abused.

No-one from the authority had monitored his welfare during his time in youth detention or had recognised and responded to his condition. The “shortcomings” were blamed on inexperience of Alex’s assigned social worker.

That situation the new academy aims to prevent, where ‘just qualified’ social workers aren’t thrown in at the deep end, but are supported for the next three years with ‘on the job’ modules and video links.

“They won’t be dumped on difficult families as soon as they qualify,” a town hall spokesman told the East London Advertiser today.

“New social workers won’t be drowned in work, but will get the support they need and won’t fell intimidated by overwork. They won’t be thrown into it.”

Mayor John Biggs emphasised at the launch that training would be based on involving families more when children are in care and having ‘quality assurance’ measured by service users and auditors.

The mayor said: “The academy will make sure we have a supply of well trained staff. This reduces staff turnover and the number of temporary agency staff we have to employ.”

The academy is the first in the country to include a three-year ‘newly qualified’ academic programme with ‘on the job’ support and training, which is run by the universities of East London, Royal Holloway and London Metropolitan.

Danny Hassell, council member for children and young people, said: “This is a milestone in recruiting and training social workers so that we have the best practitioners working with our children and families.’’

The academy, officially opened by Sir Alan Wood, former president of the Directors of Children’s Services Association, is also tackling street crime. The National Police Chiefs Council’s Tim Champion talked about interventions to deal with gang violence, which was followed by Bedfordshire University’s Prof John Pitts’ academic perspective on dealing with the gang culture.

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