Too much paperwork say staff

Social care professionals are becoming overwhelmed by paperwork at the expense of working with service users, a Community Care survey has revealed.

The survey of some 2,200 professionals found that more than half spend at least 60 per cent of their time on administrative work as opposed to direct client contact. More than one-fifth spend at least 80 per cent of their time on paperwork and only 15 per cent spend less than 40 per cent of their time on administration.

And the problem is getting worse, with 95 per cent agreeing that social work has become more bureaucratic and less client-focused over the past five years.

Problems included staff shortages, “the plethora of new initiatives and policies”, duplication of information, compilation of performance data, inadequate IT systems and government reporting requirements for ring-fenced funding.

Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social Workers 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. Nearly 80 per cent said reducing administrative burdens should be a priority for the current government workforce review, Options for Excellence.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection defended the need for reporting systems in the sector.

Paul Snell, business director for inspection, regulation and review, said: “Excessive bureaucracy is a burden on any business. However, proper records and management systems are vital to the delivery of good care services.”

Options for Excellence will produce a report next spring designed to influence the 2007 spending review, before producing a programme for long-term workforce reform next autumn. However, sources close to the review say the government is keen to find solutions to workforce problems within existing spending constraints, though it has not closed its mind to increasing resources.

In a separate study mental health staff blamed government changes for high level of stress and exhaustion.

Excessive job demands and unhappiness about their place in modern services were contributing to poor job satisfaction among mental health social workers, the British Journal of Psychiatry survey found.

The workers put in an average of 43 hours per week, six hours more than they were contracted to do, states the study of 237 professionals.

And those who had approved social worker status had higher levels of job dissatisfaction. Social workers need about 60 days of training to achieve approved status.

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