AROUND one in five social workers in Poole and Dorset county left their jobs last year, new figures reveal.

Statistics published by the Department for Education show that proportion of the full-time workforce dealing with vulnerable children that left was 21 per cent in Poole and and 18 per cent in Dorset county.

The figures cover staff turnover in the 12 months up to September last year, as compared with the previous 12 month period.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said that turnover rates were higher than in comparable professions and were an indication of the high-pressure working environment and the daily pressures facing social workers.

The number of social workers has increased overall, nationally.

Figures in Bournemouth suggest the borough bucked the trend, with only 5.2 per cent of staff leaving, below the national average of 14 per cent.

Poole council employs the equivalent of 93 full-time staff, with some full-time posts shared by part-time workers.

The figures show that last autumn there were eight vacancies, five of these were being covered by agency workers.

The largest group of leavers was those who had been in the job for two to five years.

Dorset County Council employs the equivalent of 186 full-time staff. Last autumn there were 22 vacancies, 15 of which were covered by agency workers.

Here, the figures show, the largest group of leavers was the highly experienced with 10 to 20 years in the job.

Maris Stratulis, England manager at the BASW, said: "It is imperative that we address the instability in the workforce and create safer working environments for social workers where their workloads are manageable.

"We also need to address other issues such as good career progression, effective support and supervision."

The figures also show that in both Poole and Dorset social workers were dealing with less than the national average number of cases.

However, the BASW said caseload numbers did not reveal the full picture as they do not take account of the complexity of some cases where multiple children from the same family might be living in different locations.

Ms Stratulis said: "The pressures on children's social workers are at times untenable as they are given unmanageable caseloads, work well over their hours and inevitably carry the stress of something going wrong on their caseload.

"We know only too well that the stakes are very high."

In Bournemouth, the largest group of leavers was experienced social workers with five to 10 years in the job.