A WHISTLEBLOWER says they saw a climate of crisis and bullying while working for Worcestershire County Council's failing children's services team.

The former social worker, who worked for a few years at the department before leaving, says they wanted to speak out to inform the public what had been going on.

But the authority's chief executive says the whole-council and staff are working "really hard" to improve the service, a point recognised recently by Ofsted.

The social worker claims during their time the team was understaffed with a focus on prioritising financial cuts, which explained why the service had been failing and neglecting Worcestershire children.

The damaging claims of the whistleblower include:

• That “stressed and tired” social workers were exploited - working 25 hours unpaid, on top of their contracted hours.

• Several social workers went on sick leave due to stress.

• One social worker went to work with a broken hand, fearing the consequences of not meeting a deadline.

• One social worker had to deal with 40 cases - more than the maximum which is meant to be 18.

• Social workers were told to ignore quality of work and encouraged to get this crucial work - such as assessing the risk to a child - "done quickly".

• If social workers refused to disregard quality, "they were belittled”.

The former social worker said: "The prioritisation of saving money at all costs caused and encouraged unethical and unsafe decision making.

"This was at a time when the workforce included 40 newly qualified social workers who were entirely dependent upon other professionals to teach them good practice.

"Social workers were routinely told, in order to get assessments 'out of the red', to ignore quality of work and just get them done quickly.

The social worker also said colleagues were "routinely bullied, both openly and discreetly."

They added in the months before they left there had been improvement and the bullying stopped, but stressed the system was still in bits and feared issues could return.

The Advertiser has previously reported that a damning report by the Department for Education's Commissioner for Children's Services in Worcestershire spoke of "widespread, systemic failings" in children's services, with Essex County Council being brought in as an 'improvement partner'.

In January an Ofsted inspection rated the county's services as "inadequate". Inspectors recently reported that the local authority has achieved some improvements, but further progress is required.

Worcestershire County Council chief executive Steve Stewart said: "We don't think that it's helpful to respond to the claims of an anonymous individual who may or may not have gained some experience of working in children's social care.

"Instead we would rather point to the evidence from Ofsted and the latest report from their most recent monitoring visit.

"Inspectors have identified that we have made tangible improvements. Ofsted acknowledges the whole-council’s commitment to improving services.

"Inspectors have seen that the significant investments that we have made in additional staffing has supported those improvements.

"We know that we have a lot of work still to do to get to the stage where we are consistently delivering high quality services to children, young people and their families in Worcestershire."