Social workers are working longer hours, still bogged down by admin

Practitioners spend far more time on admin than on face-to-face time with services users, finds the latest research.

Image credit: Monkey Business Images/Rex Features

The average social worker works almost nine hours per week longer than they are contracted to, yet only a fraction of that time is spent with service users, according to research by a recruitment agency.

On average, full-time social workers are contracted to work 37.2 hours in a typical five-day working week, but most work 45.9 hours, the survey by Liquid Personnel found.

Almost two thirds (63.8%) of the 600 respondents said their working hours had grown over the past year.

Yet social workers reported spending only 15% of their time on face-to-face work with service users. Most of their time was taken up by administrative tasks (35%), attending meetings (12%), travelling (11%) and using the phone (11%).

“We’re not surprised by these results, but we are disappointed,” said Jonathan Coxon, managing director of Liquid Personnel. “High caseloads and a lack of admin support means face-to-face time with service users has been on the decline for a long time.”

In a typical month, social workers spend 3.1 hours in training, either internal or external, and 1.9 hours in supervision. The respondents’ experience ranged from newly qualified to those in senior positions.

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