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More than 10% of children's social workers absent with coronavirus in some councils

New figures released by the Department for Education have shown that some councils were missing more than a tenth of their children’s social care workforce last month, compared to just 1% in September.

18/11/20

More than 10% of children's social workers absent with coronavirus in some councils

Survey data released by the Department for Education (DfE) has shown that 4% of councils reported that over 10% of social workers were unavailable due to coronavirus (COVID-19) in October, compared to a low of 1% in September.

The number of social workers unavailable with the virus, however, has not yet matched the peak of 13% in May.

The proportion of residential care staff unavailable to work due to coronavirus has shown a similar pattern, with 11% of local authorities reporting over 10% of staff unavailable in the latest ‘wave’, compared to a low of 8% in September and a peak of 27% in June.

The larger fluctuations in the residential care workforce has been suggested to be due to the fact that some local authorities have small residential care workforces, and therefore any small changes in staff availability may result in large changes in the proportion of staff unavailable to work.

In the most recent wave of the survey, some local authorities in Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions – before the national lockdown – told the DfE that they were beginning to experience issues with staff availability, saying: “more workers are symptomatic, tested and leading to isolation in their wider team for a period,” and also suggested that the national phone app could be a driver for this issue.

Responding to the survey Rachael Wardell, Chair of the Workforce Development Policy Committee at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “Children’s services have worked hard to stay as close to ‘business as usual’ as possible, in particular by maintaining contact with children receiving support.

“All local authorities have had to consider how we can continue to provide essential services as members of our workforce fall ill or are required to self-isolate, including our social workers.

“We anticipate that our peak in referrals to children’s services is yet to come, and when it does this will put added pressure on a workforce that was already under strain pre-Covid-19, particularly if the number of social worker absences continues to rise.”

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