Councils in England are beginning to relieve the pressure on frontline children’s social workers despite ongoing high vacancy rates and heavy caseloads, a study has shown.
An analysis of how the Social Work Improvement Fund (SWIF) was spent last year found 73% of local authorities had made progress with their workload management systems. Nearly a quarter said they were already “on top of it”.
Similarly, many authorities confirmed they had used their share of the £23m grant to create healthier workplaces and improve service delivery, according to the Children’s Workforce Development Council’s report.
However, employers reported challenges to putting in place the improvements. The analysis showed that about one in 10 councils had vacancy rates of 10-20% in their children’s services teams.
The report also showed that practitioners in 57 councils were dealing with between 20 and 30 cases at any one time last year. This rose to between 30 and 40 cases in five authorities.
The SWIF was the first part of the government’s action plan to transform social work in England over the next 10 years. It has almost doubled in 2011-12 to £44m.
“This SWIF report helps us better understand how local authorities are dealing with the challenges they are facing,” said Mary Baginsky, the CWDC’s assistant director for social work.
“We will be using these findings to inform our work with SWIF.”
Three-quarters of councils told the CWDC they were using the Social Work Reform Board’s “health check” framework, or a similar tool, to assess workloads and support change.
A breakdown of who was using the health check showed the majority were strategic managers, but it was also used by frontline teams in 29 authorities.
The CWDC also used the analysis to gauge reaction to some of its social work programmes, including the scheme for newly qualified social workers. Nine in 10 councils taking part in the scheme said it had had a positive impact.
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