The Local Government Association has called on the government to scrap Lord Laming’s recommendation that all referrals from a professional must lead to a formal initial assessment by social workers.
It follows the publication of a report by Loughborough University, which the LGA commissioned to determine the cost of implementing Laming’s recommendations post-Baby P.
The full report, published today, reveals that every initial assessment by social workers takes an average of 10 hours to complete, with 87% of that time spent on paperwork and entering electronic data. An extra 6,000 social workers would be needed to implement the recommendation properly.
The LGA said the recommendation would increase bureaucracy for social workers and leave them less time for direct work with families and children.
The LGA has also called for an extra £41m in funding to resource Laming’s recommendations. The figure rises to £116m if the recommendation on initial assessments is not scrapped. The money would fund better supervision, training and preventative work with children and families, all of which were also included in the Laming recommendations.
Loughborough University found that to ensure supervision focused on reflective practice, as well as case management, would cost each local authority an extra £9,408 per year. Increasing social worker training and continuing professional development would cost an extra £4,180 per council per year.
However, Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, admitted that asking national government for extra funding during a recession was unlikely to be successful.
“But it would be irresponsible to pretend social work teams can make major changes to how they operate without there being implications for their workload and resources,” she said.
Ritchie said the LGA would, however, push hard for changes to areas that could free up social worker time. This would include getting other agencies such as police and education to make greater use of the common assessment framework (CAF) and take greater responsibility for leading on CAF cases.
She stopped short of suggesting the CAF should be made statutory. “We have to remember that the CAF still has varied uptake amongst local authorities themselves so we need to make sure our own house is in order first. I think we need to have conversations with other agencies about the problems in using it before we rush to statutory options.
“The CAF is already there and making proper use of it would be hugely helpful in terms of freeing up social worker time.”
Ritchie said ensuring ICS systems were also fit for purpose was vital. “It needs to be able to do the work and not bog social workers down in bureacracy. In my own council, Kensington and Chelsea, we didn’t take the government grant and instead sat down with a social worker and IT bodies to make sure it actually helped frontline workers in their job. I don’t know if the ICS system can be modified to a similar model but it’s clear there is a lot of disillusionment with the original version.”