COMPLAINTS about children's social care in Worcestershire have increased 44 per cent - leading to concerns staff are under too much pressure.

A new Worcestershire County Council report has revealed how the rate of complaints about children's social services have leapt from 208 to 300 in two years.

During that time the number of complainants citing poor communication have tripled - with the council saying it is usually around staff "not being available" to answer the phone or calls "not being returned after messages have been left".

There are now around 690 children in care, a figure which stood at 530 back in 2009, costing in excess of £33 million per year to keep on top of.

As your Worcester News revealed in July, despite serious efforts to recruit more staff in recent years, to a full-time equivalent of around 120, bosses still need around 25 agency workers per day to fill gaps.

The management at County Hall expects social care workers to be 'on the road' as much as possible, using laptops and mobile phones to get about quicker.

But the increase in complaints have led to some councillors warning that the implications need to be examined.

Conservative Councillor Pam Davey, speaking during a meeting of the corporate and communities panel, said: "For some people, when they don't get a call back it puts their whole life on hold - they feel like they can't do anything until it comes.

"That can be very stressful. You can imagine, when someone rings a social worker they will be at the end of their tether.

"If they don't know when a return call will be coming, if it's later today, tomorrow, then that's quite serious."

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Liz Tucker said: "I had assumed when we launched these smarter ways of working (having staff on the road), we'd be looking at the consequences - maybe that's a question for us to answer."

Annette Stock, the council's complaints manager, said: "Given time, I think people will get used to the fact social workers don't just sit around in the office next to a telephone.

"But we do recognise that for us, we've got to win the public over - we know getting hold of a social worker will be the most important issue for them."

The overall children's services budget is around £70 million, with an extra £4 million pumped into it this year to help cope with demand.

A national shortage of social workers means the council now offers £4,000 'golden hellos' for certain children's services roles, a market-forces style top-up to compete with rival councils also facing shortages, which are in many cases considerably worse.