Social workers face increasing stress as they struggle to ensure clients retain a service as councils tighten eligibility thresholds.
That was the warning from Ruth Cartwright, joint manager for England at the British Association of Social Workers.
She said it went against social workers’ training and ethics to offer a minimal service, while social workers were often the ones to break the news to clients if they were no longer eligible.
“Social workers are meeting people in desperate need of personal care and support and are focusing with them on what they can’t do and end up telling them what help they can’t have,” she said. “It’s demoralising for newly qualifieds, especially.”
As a result, she said, most will try to ensure their clients continue to receive a service by stretching the definitions of the eligibility thresholds established by the Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) guidance.
“They are testing the elasticity of the definitions,” Cartwright said. “I wouldn’t blame any social worker and would think most social workers would try that.”
Cartwright said social workers would not go against their local authority’s policy but would examine the wording of the FACS eligibility bands and see how far they could go to meet’ needs.
This view was echoed by Mencap’s David Congdon, who said social workers had “a pragmatic way” of dealing with users’ needs.
Similar issues were raised by a report by the then Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2008, against a backdrop of rising thresholds for care. “In practice, professionals had considerable power to interpret eligibility criteria flexibly,” it found.
Are you concerned about rising thresholds? Have your say
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails