Chief inspector in Wales raises concerns about social worker caseloads

The Welsh inspectorate’s latest annual report found ‘stark variability’ in the performance of social services departments across the country.

Credit: Patrick Frilet/Rex Features
Credit: Patrick Frilet/Rex Features

Inspections of local authority children’s services in Wales last year raised concerns about the size and complexity of social workers’ caseloads, the chief inspector of social services, Imelda Richardson, has revealed.

The inspectorate’s annual report also found that the frequency and quality of supervision available to this group of social workers remained “variable”.

An example highlighted in the report was an inspection of Anglesey council’s safeguarding service, which found poor performance was being challenged through informal rather than formal performance management processes.

“All local authorities need to ensure that they deliver effective supervision as part of performance management, as it is a cornerstone of good practice,” recommended the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales Annual Report 2011-12, published last week.

The report also revealed that inspections during 2011-12 showed a “stark variability of performance” across Wales, which could not always be explained by the different demographic and economic challenges faced by social services in the country.

“This means that the ambition of ministers and policy makers for a more equitable level and quality of provision across Wales will require collaboration and hard work to achieve,” the inspectorate concluded.

Other key findings from the report:

  • The number of looked after children in Wales has risen from 2,991 in 1998 to 5,725 in 2012.
  • In 1998, the rate of looked after children per 10,000 young people (under 18) was 45 in Wales and 47 in England. By 2012, it had risen to 91 in Wales compared to 59 in England. Across Wales this varied from 54 in Flintshire to 167 in Neath Port Talbot.
  • Developments in reablement and telecare have yet to achieve a better balance between institutional and community-based care for older people in Wales.
  • Local authorities continue to ensure that the vast majority of children on the child protection register have an allocated social worker.

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