Half of social workers say their employer has failed to complete a workload “health check” amid reports that caseloads have increased over the past year, a survey has found.
More than two-thirds (69%) of respondents to recruitment agency Liquid Personnel’s annual social work survey said their caseload had grown in the past year. The figures were roughly the same in children’s and adult services.
The survey of around 550 agency and permanent social workers also revealed that 40% felt their current caseload was unmanageable.
Yet when asked whether their employer had followed the Social Work Task Force’s recommendation to carry out a health check of a range of issues including caseloads and vacancy rates, half said no and another third (36%) said they were unsure.
“Workload health checks are key to delivering the real change social workers need to practice safely and effectively, so this is worrying news,” said Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social work.
“Social workers are still struggling with heavy caseloads, high turnover and vacancy rates, and workload health checks are instrumental to tackling this perennial problem.”
Moira Gibb, former chair of the taskforce and chair of the Social Work Reform Board, warned last year that employers who failed to complete a health check could fall behind in the race to recruit skilled staff.
She said she was unsurprised that some English employers had not used the health check framework published by the taskforce in 2009, given the current economic climate. But she expressed concern that a quality gap would emerge between employers as a result.
Jonathan Coxon, managing director of Liquid Personnel, said employers should undertake the health check in order to give a clearer picture of the current state of the profession.
But he added: “This will only be worthwhile if the resources are made available to rectify any problems which are identified.”
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