More than half of the team of social workers dealing with children and families in Bexley do not have frontline roles as case holders, taking direct responsibility for vulnerable people, according to government figures.

They are either managers or newly qualified social workers who are not given case holder duties.

The council employs the equivalent of 171 full-time staff, with some full-time posts shared by part-time workers. Statistics from the Department for Education show that only 75 or 44% are case holders.

The British Association of Social Workers said that children's service were overstretched. It would not want to reduce posts at any level, but change was needed to keep experienced social workers in direct practice roles.

Maris Stratulis, England Manager for the BASW, said, "The more senior people become in local authorities, usually the management route, the less likely they are to be involved in direct practice which we consider to be a loss. There isn't enough emphasis on valuing experienced and skilled practitioners and not losing them to more traditional management roles.

"This is something that we would like to see changed in relation to career progression and valuing practice as people advance in their social work careers."

The average caseload for each full time social worker dealing directly with cases is 14.7, which is below the average rate for England of 17.8 cases.

The BASW said that caseload numbers failed to show the full picture as they didn't take account of the complexity of some cases where multiple children from the same family might be living in different locations with different care solutions but would be the responsibility of a single case holder.

The latest figures cover the 12 months to the end of September last year. At that time there were 24 vacancies, 16 of these were being covered by agency workers.

The turnover of staff, the proportion of the workforce that left over the 12 months, was 9%. This is below the average for England of 13.6%.

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