Government cuts to back office support have left social workers drowning in paperwork, with some acting as receptionists or even cleaning the office, according to an investigation by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW).
Nine out of 10 social workers (85%) have seen notable cuts to services in the last 12 months, the association’s annual The State of Social Work survey revealed.
Two-thirds of the 1,100 respondents said they were concerned about the impact of unmanageable caseloads on their ability to deliver services.
One child protection social worker said caseloads in their team were at “dangerous levels”.
But almost half (46%) of respondents said they were afraid to speak out in case there were repercussions.
Social workers said cuts to back office staff meant they spent more and more time on administrative tasks. Some reported having to pitch in with cleaning toilets and hoovering the office.
“The survey statistics are damning and the hundreds of comments from social workers are deeply alarming,” said Hilton Dawson, chief executive of BASW.
“The government pledged in 2010 to protect frontline social workers and yet, by axing support staff, they have turned social workers into glorified typists.
“We cannot afford to wait any longer for urgent government action. Lives that could be helped will be neglected and lives that could be saved will be lost, unless the response is swift and total.”
BASW is calling on the government to put measures in place to better support social workers, including by ensuring local authority admin staff are redeployed to social work departments from less critical roles.
The Department for Education has been contacted for a response.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Professor Munro’s review of child protection found services are often far too reactive. We are now implementing major child protection reforms to cut out the red tape and free up social workers to get on with their job, instead of being buried in paperwork.
“We’re investing £4 billion nationally over two years in children services and we’ve given local authorities complete freedom over their budgets so they can target children most at risk and protect them from harm.
“It is a false economy for councils not to make this a priority.”