Employers must “debrief” social workers after particularly traumatic child protection cases to avoid burnout, children’s minister Tim Loughton has said.
Unison wrote to the minister in March expressing concern about the stress levels of its 40,000 social worker members. The letter was part of a 10-week joint campaign with Community Care to highlight the need for better working conditions to support safe practice.
In response, Loughton pointed to the interim findings of Professor Eileen Munro’s review of child protection, which suggested proper debriefing procedures could reduce the risk of burnout.
He said supporting and debriefing workers after traumatic experiences was “good employment practice”, adding: “I would hope that all local authorities and other employers of social workers would do this.”
Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social work, said employers should develop proactive strategies to tackle burnout. She added: “Employers could save millions and give social work departments a huge boost by getting to grips with the underlying causes of stress and depression.”
Loughton addressed several other issues raised by Community Care and Unison, including the administrative burden on social workers and the need for a “non-negotiable” approach to regular supervision. He said these would be dealt with by the Social Work Reform Board’s programme of reform in England and Munro’s review.
Community Care and Unison have produced a Social Work Contract, which contains the 10 points that will enable social workers to practice safely and effectively.
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