Cllr Jim Bollan, Council leader Jonathan McColl, Chief Social worker Jonathan Hinds,Beth Culshaw and Cllr Martin Rooney.
By Lizzie Healey
Concerns have been raised after it was revealed 146 children have not been allocated social workers in West Dunbartonshire.
The figure was announced at a full council meeting last week, with Councillor Jim Bollan describing it as “unacceptable”.
It comes after reports that social workers have extended their threat of industrial action for a further six months.
And a collective grievance filed by staff earlier this year, who were on the brink of striking.
They claimed the service had reached crisis point with 250 children waiting to be allocated social workers.
This figure has now been reduced to 146 but the Community Party councillor said this wasn’t good enough.
He said: “So we are down from 250 to 146? That’s 146 too many children waiting to be assessed and that’s unacceptable.
“I know there’s pressure on the system because of a lack of resources but I am beginning to understand why the unions are wanting to ballot if there’s still 146 children waiting to be assessed.
“While I’m grateful to see the figures reducing, 146 is not acceptable in 2019.”
The Leven councillor also raised concerns that McDonald’s was being used as a contact space for children and families to meet.
He said: “We need to think about more appropriate accommodation for these types of contacts to take place.”
Council leader Jonathan McColl said this should not be a criticism.
He said: “It’s a lack of understanding to complain about McDonalds being used as a contact space. It’s the choice of families and frankly, you can have contact between mothers and fathers and their children in a space where they can do a social activity that’s more beneficial to the family unit.”
Regarding the unallocated cases, he said the figure appeared to be “sensationalised”.
He commented: “The 146 spaces seems to be being sensationalised a bit. Have these cases all been triaged and is there no immediate need to allocate a social worker?”
Chief social work officer Jonathan Hinds said initial assessment will have taken place.
Meanwhile, Beth Culshaw, chief officer, said: “We are seeing an overall downward trend in unallocated cases.”
The discussion took place as councillors noted West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s chief social work officer’s annual report.
The report highlighted a demand for services and budget pressures around placements for children and young people, which has been an ongoing issue.
Mr Hinds said: “Evidence based interventions have been put in place where there is a clearer focus on earlier intervention, building family resilience and reducing the risk of family breakdown where children may be at risk of being accommodated.
“Shifting the balance this way will also help the financial pressures to the demand of community and residential placements.”
Labour leader Martin Rooney said the report contained some “worrying statistics”, including that West Dunbartonshire has seen the biggest increase in relative deprivation from 2012.
The area also has the second highest rate of income-deprived population in Scotland.
Cllr Bollan said: “The SNP Council have told us they are on top of the crisis in the Social Work Services. This was the spin put on the service for vulnerable families at the Council meeting last month with 146 children still waiting to be assessed.
“This photo shows the quality of confidential supervised contact space the SNP are providing for children and families at Aurora House in Clydebank, which has replaced the now closed SW offices in Vale of Leven.”