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Community Care survey of social worker caseloads

ADCS Vice President Charlotte Ramsden said:

“This survey, of over 600 social workers, shows some of the impact of the pandemic on the social work workforce. A majority of those surveyed found their caseload ‘hard to manage’ or ‘completely unmanageable’ and this certainly gives cause for concern. 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 and national government to take away from this survey.

“The whole of the children’s workforce, including social workers, have worked tirelessly over the past year to support our children and families during the most difficult of circumstances. We are now seeing greater complexity of need being presented by children and families and this is likely to have been exacerbated at a time when members of staff have fallen ill or needed to self-isolate due to Covid-19. Local authorities have been doing all they can to support workforce wellbeing during the restrictions and maintaining regular contact with social workers is an important part of this.

“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 and social care cases will vary in complexity. While it is obviously preferable for social workers to have smaller caseloads, enabling them to work more intensively with children and families, a range of factors need to be considered during the allocation process from complexity, risk and the experience of the social worker.

“The impact of the last year on children and their families is still emerging but the increased complexity of need, together with potential increases in referrals is already adding pressure to a workforce that was already under strain pre-Covid-19. ADCS has been raising for some time the issue of social work sufficiency, namely recruitment and retention. Local authorities have been doing innovative work to ensure they have a sufficient, high quality workforce, but a national campaign and promotion of the value of social work which clearly articulates that good social work helps change lives for the better would undoubtedly help with this.”


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