‘Bureaucracy prevents Scots staff developing effective client work’

Scottish social workers are spending so much time on bureaucracy
they are struggling to establish effective relationships with
clients, according to a report into the future of the

Interim findings from the 21st Century Review of social work in
Scotland says that there is an increasing “downward shift” in the
time social workers spend on developing therapeutic relationships
with service users. The report says time is squeezed by paperwork
and heavy caseloads.

There is a growing mismatch between what social workers feel
they are trained to do and what they are required to do, while too
much emphasis is placed on crisis intervention at the expense of
developing preventive services, the report says.

Willy Roe, chair of the review group, said: “We know that social
workers are most effective when they are able to build consistent
therapeutic relationships with their clients, yet they have little
time to do so. We must ask ourselves whether this is practical and
offering best value.

“A lot of social work interventions are done in crisis
situations after the damage has been done, yet the investment in
preventive services is low in comparison. We need to look at what
the balance should be in the future,” he added.

The report from Edinburgh University, commissioned by the
Scottish executive, says a generic social work education programme
should be retained, with increased specialisation in its later
stages or after qualification. There is also a need for greater
continuity of staff and service delivery.

The report adds that there is an “urgent need” to strengthen its
professional identity so that it can establish clear roles for
individual social workers. It adds that loss of professional
identity – with a subsequent impact on recruitment and retention –
was more to blame for problems in the service than shortages of
staff and resources.

The review is to report findings to the Scottish executive in
the autumn.


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