More than half of the posts for social workers who deal with children and families in Bromley were vacant last autumn, government figures reveal.

Statistics produced by the Department for Education show there were 118 vacancies in these crucial roles protecting children - that's 56.6% of the full-time workforce.

These "disappointing" figures promoted action from Bromley Council however as they have since increased numbers across the board and say they are on an "upward trend".

At the time, council had the equivalent of 91 full-time staff, with some full-time posts shared by part-time workers. In the 12 months to September last year the staff turnover rate, that's the proportion of the full-time workforce that left, was 37.2%.

The council had agency workers covering 82 of the vacancies.

But the council says that a lot has changed since those figures were published.

“These out of date figures totally misrepresent the reality of the situation here in Bromley nearly two years on," a council spokeswoman said. "Since our last Ofsted inspection we have worked extremely hard to improve services for our young people and addressing the issue of recruitment has been a major part of this.

“Bromley is working towards having 90 per cent of social workers on our staff this year with the smallest possible input from agency staff.

"We are currently at 75 per cent and the remainder of staff are fully covered by qualified temporary social workers. Alongside this we have increased our leadership from four heads of service to seven so that supervision for social workers is much improved. As part of our commitment to social workers, we are making sure they have enough time to work with children and to do good social work."

The spokeswoman also said that since the recent Ofsted report, council had been on an "upward trend."

“We now have a dedicated team of children’s social workers in Bromley, the vast majority of whom are on the Bromley staff," she said

"Against the backdrop of shortages of qualified social workers nationally, Bromley is bucking the trend.

"We have been on an upward trajectory since our disappointing Ofsted and this has been fully acknowledged by DfE. Successful recruitment of talented social workers is a big part of this along with stronger management and achievable caseloads.”

The British Association of Social Workers had previously said it has been concerned about vacancy rates for some time and warned that the pressure on social workers was untenable.

Maris Stratulis, the England Manager of the BASW 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.

"The ratio between agency and permanent staff can also be disproportionate in some local authorities which might explain why some vacancy rates are higher in some areas as social workers are only there for the short-term rather than the long haul.