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Comment: Unison survey of the social work workforce

Steve Crocker, ADCS President, said:

“This report contains important messages from social workers about the issues affecting their work with children and families, and the impact of Covid-19. We have been raising many of the issues highlighted in this report with government for a number of years. After more than a decade of austerity and year on year local government budget cuts the ability of children’s services to help children and families at the earliest opportunity, when we can make the biggest difference to their life chances, has been reduced. We urgently need properly and sustainably funded children’s services which will reduce demand for children’s social care and improve outcomes for children and families – we hope the Treasury is listening.

“It is difficult to read that during the pandemic, when social workers, like our NHS colleagues, continued their critically important and often lifesaving work with children and families, too many also faced a rise in harassment and abuse against them. Sadly, abuse against social workers is not a new issue but, let me be clear, it is unacceptable. Social workers have a very challenging role, often in extremely difficult circumstances. If they are to do their jobs well, then they need to be protected from harassment and abuse in all its forms and to be confident that should they experience this that their employer and the police will take appropriate action. To protect the children and families we work with we must protect the staff who work with them.

“As employers, we recognise the impact of the pandemic on our staff; directors of children’s services are working hard to create the conditions in which good social work can thrive, where social workers feel well supported and valued in their work so they can effectively manage the emotional and practical demands of the role. Having caseloads that are too high, feeling stressed and not being supported with that clearly impacts on a social worker’s ability to form good relationships with children and families, do the job well and on their mental health and wellbeing. Every local authority is working hard to recruit a permanent social work workforce and reduce our reliance on agencies which has a knock-on effect on caseloads. However, we still don’t have enough social workers to meet the level of need in our communities, and Covid-19 has increased that need. The independent review of children’s social care recommends a national recruitment strategy for social workers, we urge the Department for Education to develop this and roll it out at pace. This should also aim to promote greater understanding amongst professionals and the public of the important work social workers do.”


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