Question: “I am in a children and families team which has been struggling with a recent increase in referrals for family support and child protection for a good few months. We’ve all had a problem in keeping contact sheets after home visits but my manager, who has been negative towards me for a while, has singled me out for criticism for poor record-keeping in supervision sessions and meetings. They’re now threatening to refer me to the General Social Care Council for breaching the code of practice. I’m not only stressed out by work and the difficult relationship with my boss but now I’m getting very worried about my future. Please can you advise?”
Answer: Keeping accurate, comprehensive and contemporaneous records is an essential part of good social work practice.
If your record-keeping difficulties arise from an increase in referrals (and therefore workloads), which risk compromising safe practice, you must draw your manager’s attention to your concerns. Paragraph 3.4 of the GSCC Code of Practice for Social Care Workers requires you to “bring to the attention of your employer or the appropriate authority resource or operational difficulties that might get in the way of the delivery of safe care”.
That is normally best done through professional supervision, but if your current supervision doesn’t include genuine joint discussion of the record-keeping concerns, their causes, and how to address them, you should put your concerns in writing by asking that they be discussed at your next supervision meeting. Placing concerns on the record lays an audit trail and it’s better to do this now than regret not doing it later. You should also talk to colleagues and suggest a team meeting to collectively raise these concerns with the manager. You could adapt this letter: www.aspect.org.uk/files/1712/Aspect_Social_Care_Pro_Forma_1.doc
Paragraph 2.3 of the Code of Practice for Employers requires your employer (and its managers) to have “systems in place to enable social care workers to report inadequate resources or operational difficulties”. Employers will not create safe practice by threatening individual staff rather than tackling your underlying problem of rising workloads. If workloads are so high as to compromise safe practice, your manager must reduce them by either delegating some work, cutting some work or finding different ways for the additional work to be done (such as bringing in extra staff).
Only a foolish manager would threaten to report you to the GSCC in the circumstances you describe. As a registered social worker themselves, they might be regarded as breaching the code if they fail to address your concerns. Moreover, the GSCC would not take the referral seriously unless you had been suspended pending disciplinary investigation.
If your manager does not reconsider his or her approach you should contact your trade union representative so that your treatment and the team workload pressures can be addressed.
Roger Kline is the social care spokesperson for the Association of Professionals in Education and Children’s Trusts
I am a support worker for people with learning disabilities and have NVQ levels 2 and 3 in health and social care. I am 33, live in London and have an engineering degree. I want to get into social work studies and become a social worker in adult services without necessarily going back to do a social work related first degree. Can you advise me on this?
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This article is published in the 14 January 2010 edition of Community Care under the headline “Threatened with GSCC hearing after problems with soaring workload”