It said their attempts to help abused children are frustrated by the need to meet targets. Social workers are badly trained, badly managed and badly led, a withering official report has found.
The Social Work Task Force was set up by Children's Secretary Ed Balls in the wake of the Baby P scandal.
Its findings also question whether many social workers are up to the job. The training 'is not rigorous in ensuring that they have both the intellectual and interpersonal skills they will need', it said.
And as Mr Balls announced new initiatives, including £58million to entice social workers back to the job, the task force said reforms of social services must go much further and deeper.
It said the inquiry by Lord Laming into the failings behind the Baby Peter case did not go far enough in its recommendations.
The task force, headed by Camden Council chief executive Moira Gibb, also cast doubt on the computer system reformed following the Victoria Climbie murder in 2000.
The report said social workers became 'frustrated' by poor computer systems that drove them to act in ways 'at odds with professional judgment'.
Tory children's spokesman Tim Loughton said: 'Ministers cannot hope to entice more social workers back into the profession unless they fix the problems that originally drove them out.'
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