Social workers have made an overwhelming call for a cap on the maximum number of cases they can have, despite this being rejected by the Social Work Task Force.
Ninety-four per cent of social workers who responded to Community Care’s caseloads survey said they wanted an upper limit on caseloads.
The hundreds of social workers who gave detailed responses to the survey recognised that a caseload cap should be more complex than a simple number. But there was a widespread support for a system to flag when caseloads become unmanageable.
“A guideline of what is an acceptable caseload should be given so we have the ammunition to say to our managers, we are not supposed to be working with this amount of cases. We are all working unsafely and we are not able to carry out the actions that are needed,” said one social worker from adult services.
Social workers also complained that existing systems that reflect the complexity and time different cases take do not always work. “We complete a caseload weighting every month in supervision and all the team are above the recommended limit,” said one children’s social worker
“A cap is not as simple as a number,” argued Jo Cleary, co-chair of the workforce development network at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. “We should have a maximum number of hours that you work and within those hours you need to balance and prioritise work across the services. That’s what good managers should do.
“The employers’ health check will help us understand the issues,” she added.
Helga Pile, Unison officer for social workers (pictured), said: “There is an overwhelming demand from social workers for caseloads to be regulated – through a system which caps cases but also takes account of complexity and the other aspects of workload.”
“The employers standard recommended by the Social Work Task Force must bite this bullet and it must have some real teeth through proper enforcement.”
The Task Force reviewed the evidence on caseloads and said that setting a caseload cap would not work in practice because it was too simplistic and would not take account of other vital aspects of workload activities like supervision. It would also not take account of the different skills, knowledge and experience of social workers or the complexity of cases.
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