Social workers’ caseloads should be managed to give them the time to adopt a “strengths-based approach” to assessing people’s needs under the Care Act 2014.
Practitioners should be given more time to prepare for assessments and to research community resources to enable them to put a strengths-based approach into practice from 1 April, when the act comes into force.
What is a strengths-based approach?
That was one of the key messages from a guide to strengths-based approaches to assessment published by the Social Care Institute for Excellence this week as part of its government-funded programme of work to support Care Act implementation.
The guide defines a strengths-based approach as one that takes into account how the person’s capabilities, knowledge, social network and community resources can help them meet their care and support needs and desired outcomes.
This is enshrined into the act’s provisions on assessing adults and carers, under sections 9 and 10, which require assessors to consider how community resources and matters other than care and support can help the person achieve their desired outcomes. The statutory guidance under the act stresses that this involves taking into account the person’s strengths.
What makes a good assessment?
The Scie guide says that a good strengths-based assessment involves thorough preparation, building trust with people, a recognition that it will take more than one session to conclude the assessment and a knowledge and awareness of community resources with which to connect people.
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It says this requires social workers to get to know the resources in the communities in which they work, meaning that managers should
Managers will need to make changes to working practices, including workloads, to accommodate a strengths-based approach, to allow for the fact that assessments may take longer.
“Practitioners must prepare assessments thoroughly,” it says. “Time for preparation of assessment should be taken into account for performance purposes and definition of workloads.”
Social workers will need to get to know the resources in the communities in which they work, meaning that managers should also give practitioners more time to build up knowledge and awareness of community resources.
Freeing up time
This means management will have to look at ways of freeing up time for practitioners to invest in strengths-based approaches. The guide suggests the following:-
- encouraging people to undertake supported self-assessments of their own needs, as allowed by the Care Act 2014, though in such cases the local authority must assure itself of the accuracy of the assessment;
- using third party organisations to provide “trusted assessors” to carry out assessments instead of in-house social workers;
- streamlining processes, for instance by removing the need for assessments to be always signed off by panels or managers.
Increase in volume of assessments
However, local authorities also face a significant increase in the volume of assessments they will be required to carry out in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
Councils are expected to have to undertake an additional 250,000 carers’ assessments in 2015-16 because of the reduced threshold for an assessment introduced by the act. In 2016-17, they are expected to have to undertake an additional 330,000 assessments of self-funders looking to qualify for council-funded support under either the cap on care costs or the more generous means-test for residential care that will be introduced from April 2016. The government is allowing councils to start assessing this group from October 2015 to manage pressures.
While central government has provided funding to meet these additional costs, there are concerns over whether the funding will be sufficient. Any shortfall could undermine local authorities’ ability to invest in allowing social workers to conduct more strengths-based assessments.
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