Adult social workers feel pessimistic about the future of their practice because of bureaucracy and care management, but still believe they make a difference, The College of Social Work has found.
Fifty four per cent of respondents to a College survey disagreed with the statement, “I feel optimistic about the future of social work with adults”, with just 20% agreeing.
However, 95% felt that their work made a difference to people’s lives. Most respondents to the online survey were social workers currently practising in England.
The survey was published as the College launched a campaign to raise the standing of social work with adults and ensure that the forthcoming adult care White Paper gives a high priority to social work.
A key problem for practitioners was bureaucracy, with 88% of respondents agreeing that adult social work was held back by bureaucracy and performance targets, and several social workers complaining that paperwork had replaced client contact.
The College held a summit last Friday on the future of adult social work, attended by sector leaders, service users, practitioners and government officials, at which there was strong support for liberating social workers from bureaucracy so that they could exercise greater professional judgement.
The fact that many adult social workers’ roles consisted of care management was also a problem for survey respondents. Eighty five percent agreed that care management was not the same as social work, with several respondents complaining that the need to ration care meant social workers could not give people what they needed.
Among other findings:-
- 47% disagreed that integration with healthcare would enhance the standing of social work, while 26% agreed.
- 47% agreed that personalisation was likely to marginalise social workers, while 28% disagreed.
- 73% agreed that the approved mental health professional role required skills unique to social workers, despite being open to medical professionals.
Last Friday’s summit was told that social work would be given a high priority in the forthcoming White Paper, which will set out government plans to reform the funding and legal framework of adult social care.
However, the paper will not set out a series of roles and tasks that should be unique to social work, said Department of Health director for people, communities and local government Glen Mason, despite calls to do so from the British Association of Social Workers.
“The approach we are taking is not to narrow social work down to a set of prescribed functions in legislation that only social workers can do,” he told the summit. “I know that others disagree.” Mason said it was important that social workers were deployed across a broad range of tasks.
The online survey for the College had 119 respondents, 102 of whom were registered social workers and 12 of whom were social work students.
Photo: Rex Features
More on the College’s adult social work campaign
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