The increased use of non-social work qualified support staff to
field out-of-hours inquiries in social services departments is
causing concern among some emergency duty teams, writes
In a study of 28 by the Thomas Coram Institute, the quality and
supply of support staff was raised as a problem in eight local
authorities using different types of duty system, while others said
the lack of status given to EDTs had seen a dearth of experienced
social workers attracted to it.
This caused some managers to speculate whether all child protection
referrals to the teams were being dealt with most
“For example, when taking referrals from professionals in
other agencies, assistants were or could be influenced by the
opinion of the professionals rather than being able to make their
own assessment,” the study reported.
One manager said the teams were “the dying ground for
burned-out social workers”, resulting in the move to use
unqualified workers for front desk duties.
More and better training to enable support staff to distinguish
between the types of referrals and appropriate responses was
needed, according to the respondents. Call takers needed to have
greater awareness of the types of referrer to social services, and
the states of distress people might be in.
Managers in three areas where out-of-hours calls were fielded by
call centres were concerned these could cover too broad a range of
services to attend to the specific needs of those contacting social