Birmingham & Black Country

Under fire council cuts student social work placements

A council criticised for failing to protect vulnerable children has cut student social work placements from 208 to just 89, Unison claims.

The council's social work department has been under fire in light of the death of Khyra Ishaq who starved to death at her Birmingham home in 2008.

Unison said there are staff shortages and large caseloads amid cutbacks.

The council said it has been reducing adult placements and restructuring means less placement availability.

Khyra starved to death at a house in Handsworth, weighing just 2st 9lb when she was found. Her mother and her partner were jailed earlier this year.

'Managerial failings'

The Serious Case Review into her death in July found there were many missed opportunities by professional agencies and her death could have been prevented.

In July Ofsted inspectors said "critical deficiencies remain in front-line work with children".

Last month, 36 front-line staff dealing with children were told they may lose their jobs.

Roger McKenzie, Unison West Midlands regional secretary, said: "Unfortunately this is yet another example of serious managerial failings at Birmingham City Council.

"It is about time the chief executive, Stephen Hughes, took responsibility for the chaos.

"We must make it a priority to recruit and retain graduates.

"The council should wake up to the Ofsted report, the Khryra Ishaq serious case review and increase student placements and support social workers rather than do the opposite."

But in a statement, the council said it had been reducing the number of adult placements for the past few years.

"Firstly, we have no shortage to fill, and we have to balance supply with demand.

"Secondly, we have recently undergone a directorate restructure, which has also had an impact on our ability to take placements."

But the spokesman added the council wants to "strengthen relationships with key academic partners in the face of major changes to the social care landscape."

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