AN investigation into children's services in Southampton has been launched following "very serious allegations".

Southampton City Council is investigating a number of allegations and concerns raised by Unite on behalf of about 30 social workers working for the authority.

It comes as in their latest report published last month Ofsted inspectors praised some improvements made in the children's services department but said the services "require improvement to be good".

The city council had previously said that improvements have been made and will continue to be made to ensure more children in the city are kept safe.

Now Unite is urging the council to take action as soon as possible and investigate the concerns raised.

Hayley Garner, Unite branch secretary in Southampton, said social workers fear they could lose their professional registration as a result of practice they describe as "dangerous and unsafe”.

She added: "One of the most serious claims include agency social workers being encouraged to close cases without undertaking any visits or checks on the child just to get numbers down before an Ofsted inspection takes place. This practice is dangerous . Staff have said openly that if Southampton City Council continues to ignore this crisis it could lead to the death of a child. One team was told openly that they are like apples 'shiny on the outside, but rotten to the core'. We will be considering the organisation of industrial action if the council fails to take the safety of the city’s children seriously. Staff who try and stand up are targeted, told to think about their futures and that there will be 'repercussions' if they attempt to take it further.”

The city council confirmed that the claims and allegations are now being investigated.

A spokesperson for the authority said: "On the evening of Monday 27 January, we received information from the Unite union raising some concerns. These include some very serious allegations and we are undertaking an investigation into these claims. During the recent Ofsted inspection, a number of staff were interviewed by inspectors and none of the allegations made by Unite were picked up by Ofsted or reflected in their report – the recommendations of which are on public record. We are extremely disappointed that the Unite union chose to raise these issues with the local media before bringing them to the attention of the council. A scheduled meeting was due to take place with the Unite union on Thursday 30 January. The council was informed by the union on Monday 27 January that there were no agenda items or issues they wanted to raise with the council at this meeting, and the union advised it could therefore be cancelled. Senior managers have now re-scheduled this meeting with Unite to discuss these allegations in more detail."