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Community Care survey of social workers on Covid-19

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

“Covid-19 has changed the way we are all working but it hasn’t changed our focus on meeting the needs of children and their families. In children’s services, we have been prompt in shifting much of our work online, using WhatsApp and other digital platforms. However, in many cases we still need to see children face to face, so social workers and others are conducting socially distanced home visits or meeting in other spaces where social distancing can be maintained.

“Our workforce is deeply committed to child and family wellbeing, especially at such a difficult time. As employers we do not underestimate the challenges practitioners are facing because of the pandemic not least because their care for the children and families they support sits alongside the concerns they will have about their own safety and that of their own family. The survey provides some helpful insights into these challenges. It also outlines some positives, including improved ways of working which I’m sure local authorities will want to continue even when the pandemic is over.

“Keeping our staff safe and protecting their wellbeing remains a priority for all local authorities and we are working very hard to do this. It is encouraging that around 70% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their employers’ response to the pandemic, but it is certainly a matter of concern that less than half of the children’s social workers surveyed were satisfied with their access to PPE. We are acutely aware of the problems there have been with the PPE supply chain and can understand the prioritisation of some other sectors, but we cannot keep the children and families we work with safe without protecting the staff who work with them. ADCS remains in ongoing and urgent discussions with the DfE about access to appropriate PPE for the children’s workforce.

“In children’s services, most councils have been preparing for and responding to workforce shortages by redeploying the qualified staff we already have to fill gaps in higher priority areas because there are considerable advantages to working with people who are already familiar with local arrangements. Fortunately, overall, councils haven’t seen the level of absence from staff sickness, self-isolation or shielding that we initially feared. Key workers now have access to testing which should also help maintain staff availability safely and will help to keep caseloads manageable for those councils where the workforce has been more significantly affected.

“Although referrals to children’s social care reduced considerably at the start of lockdown, they are starting to increase again. We expect to see a surge in activity across children’s services as restrictions begin to ease, and we are concerned about our capacity to respond to such an increase. Before Covid-19, councils across the country were struggling to recruit and retain enough high quality social workers to manage existing workloads. We also need to consider the fatigue that many of our workforce are already experiencing and which will also increase as we face our peak. This reinforces the need for a national recruitment and retention campaign which emphasises the positive work that social workers do and their key role in responding to Covid-19.”


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