Social care professionals are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by paperwork, at the expense of working with service users, a Community Care survey has revealed.
The survey of over 2,200 professionals finds over half spend more than 60 per cent of their time on administrative work as opposed to direct client contact. More than one-fifth of them spend over 80 per cent of their time on paperwork.
And the problem is getting worse, with 95 per cent agreeing that social work had become more bureaucratic and less client-focused over the past five years.
Among specific problems highlighted were staff shortages, “the plethora of new initiatives and policies”, the duplication of information collected, compiling performance data, inadequate IT systems and government reporting requirements for ring-fenced funding.
Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social Work, said: “It’s quite hard to understand the amount of time spent on admin. It’s a system out of control.”
He blamed a lack of trust in staff, leading to the creation of “systems to ensure the work gets done”, which left social workers with less time to work with clients.
Cutting bureaucracy is seen as more important than increasing pay among practitioners’ top workforce priorities. Almost 80 per cent said reducing administrative burdens should be a priority for the current government workforce review, Options for Excellence, with less than 65 per cent citing increased pay, and just under 60 per cent improved training and better management.
Worryingly for the Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills, just 29 per cent of respondents were aware of Options for Excellence, which was announced in July by care services minister Liam Byrne.
The volume of paperwork, among other things, has left about 90 per cent of practitioners working longer than their weekly contracted hours, with 40 per cent working more than five hours extra a week.
There is backing for ideas, being considered as part of Options for Excellence, for more social work assistants to be hired to take over administrative tasks, with almost 80 per cent backing this.
But a failure to improve the situation could see many social workers leave become self-employed practitioners, an option being considered by 57 per cent of respondents. Of these, 80 per cent cited more client focus and 65 per cent less bureaucracy as reasons for a switch.
More encouragingly, two-thirds are planning to stay in social care for at least five years and over 40 per cent for at least ten years.