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Unison has accused the government of being “hell-bent” on undermining children’s social services, after it published a new report revealing the majority of social workers believe proposed reforms will leave children’s services unsafe.

The union says government proposals to allow councils in England the power to set up social work trusts, whilst also being exempt from some legal duties, could prove to be dangerous for children and fail to tackle problems faced by social workers every day.

According to Unison, proposals included in the Children and Social Work Bill will remove the legal duty of local authorities to safeguard and house children deemed to be at risk.

And also fail to address excessive caseload levels faced by social workers, as a high turnover of staff limit the ability of social care workers to work effectively and protect vulnerable children.

A survey of social workers found just one percent believe the proposed reforms address the worrying issues they face, whilst Unison also warned the changes may even lead to the privatisation of social work.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It seems the government is hell-bent on undermining social services in England.

“It’s bad enough that there are not enough social workers, or resources to deal with increasing demand. Now ministers are attacking the very legal framework that keeps children safe and secure.

“The proposals mean there would be no national system for looking after children at risk. Whether children get the care they deserve could depend on their postcode, rather than the legal protections hammered out over decades.

“The safety of our children is one of the most important responsibilities of government. But these plans show painful lessons from the past have been forgotten by ministers who are now prepared to withdraw essential protection from those least able to help themselves.

“The government is squandering an opportunity to make genuine improvements to vulnerable children and social work services by failing to engage and listen to the profession.”

A report from the National Audit Office earlier this year found the number of children in need of protection is rising. In the last decade, there has been a 124% increase in serious cases where a local authority believes a child may be at risk of significant harm, with the most common concerns being domestic abuse and mental health.