Comment: Social worker caseloads survey

Rachael Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee, said:

“This survey, of 800 children’s social workers, shows a mixed picture of results, though overall, it paints a worrying picture. While it’s positive that over a quarter of all practitioners surveyed said their caseloads were comfortably or mostly manageable, the fact that the majority of respondents found their caseloads hard to manage or completely unmanageable certainly gives cause for concern. Undoubtedly, if social workers feel overwhelmed by their work this will have a knock on effect on their mental health and wellbeing as well as on their work with children and families, so there are some important messages for local authorities to take away from this survey.

“We cannot do our best for children and families without first taking care of our staff who work with them and it’s important that social workers feel able to raise any concerns they may have about their work with their managers in regular, reflective supervision. Good managers will be able to assess how well a social worker is managing and will challenge upwards where allocations are too high. That said, there is no ‘magic’ number of children or families in a caseload, social care cases vary in their complexity, and so it is difficult to draw useful comparisons when looking at caseloads by number, as we have found when asking similar questions. Generally, lower numbers are better, enabling social workers to work more intensively with children and families and address their needs more effectively, however, a range of factors need to be considered during the allocation process from complexity, risk and the experience and professional confidence of the social worker.

“There are some definite practical constraints on employers in a context where need for help and support is increasing and we struggle to recruit and retain enough social workers nationally already. This is likely to be exacerbated at this time as members of staff fall ill or need to self-isolate because of Covid-19. This may impact on existing caseloads but local authorities are working very hard to prevent this, namely by redeploying existing qualified staff where possible and where it’s safe to do so. In addition, we hope the new Coronavirus Act which contains provisions to make it easier for returners to take up social work roles will also help to keep caseloads manageable.”

ENDS



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