'Huge problems' in social services
Huge problems are building up in social services departments because of staff shortages and "impossibly high" child protection caseloads, a union has warned.
Unison said a survey of 3,000 social workers showed jobs were being axed and vacancies left unfilled because of spending cuts.
Many of those polled reported widespread use of agency workers while some complained of being bullied into accepting additional workloads.
The study revealed that qualified social worker jobs in adult services were being replaced by cheaper posts while unqualified staff were increasingly being asked to do assessments in children's cases.
Unison national officer Helga Pile said: "This survey highlights the huge problems building up in social services departments up and down the country. In many areas, an underlying crisis is being swept under the carpet that could erupt at any time.
"Too many children are being allocated to each social worker, potentially putting them at risk. Worryingly, some departments are raising the threshold for child referrals from schools and the public before action is taken on them.
"New standards were drawn up after detailed investigations and are supported by everyone involved, as a direct response to the failings that led to the tragic death of Baby Peter. Yet, without sustained action to apply the standards consistently, the conditions that contributed to this tragedy could be repeated."
Most of those surveyed work for local authorities.