‘High risk’ social worker decision-making change in Working Together guidance questioned

Proposed change to working together guidance could remove the need for social workers to decide with managers when an assessment should be carried out

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Photo: Rido/Fotolia

A proposed change to Working Together guidance which would see social workers not having to consult managers on certain assessment decisions is “vehemently opposed” by practitioners, a consultation response has said.

In its submission to the consultation on changes to working together guidance, which closed at the end of December, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said a there was “a lot of concern” among members about changes to social work assessments listed as a “minor” change in the document.

The government had proposed deleting the phrase “with their managers” from a section outlining how social workers should progress with assessments after a case is referred to children’s social care.

At the time of the consultation being launched, BASW warned the omission could leave social workers “exposed”.

Changes in full (emphasis added):

The current guidance says about timeliness: “The speed with which an assessment is carried out after a child’s case has been referred into local authority children’s social care should be determined by the needs of the individual child and the nature and level of any risk of harm faced by the child. This will require judgements to be made by the social worker in discussion with their manager on each individual case.”

This will now read: “The speed with which an assessment is carried out after a child’s case has been referred into local authority children’s social care should be determined by the needs of the individual child and the nature and level of any risk of harm faced by the child. This will require judgements to be made by the social worker on each individual case.”

In its full consultation response, it said members were “vehemently opposed” to the change given managers “are crucial in terms of accountability and shared responsibility”.

BASW added the government had provided “no reason” for doing this, and that it would be a “high risk strategy” during a current climate of high turnover and an inexperienced workforce.

“When Working Together was revised in 2013 BASW England fought very hard for the inclusion of managers in the guidance as it was originally absent in the original draft consultation, so we are extremely disappointed by the omission.”

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), in its own response to the consultation, likewise said this change would be a “significant amendment”.

“ADCS believes this warrants further discussion about the drivers for this change and the potential implications this may have, not least with the sector regulator,” the response said.

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5 Responses to ‘High risk’ social worker decision-making change in Working Together guidance questioned

  1. Harvey Campbell January 2, 2018 at 9:52 pm #

    One wonders if this is driven by the commercial interests of the increasing number of private providers entering the children’s social work market? if you place the risk and therefore any subsequent liability on individual practitioners you effectively reduce it for the company. Individual practitioners are then open to the litigation should mistakes arise rather than the organisation which employs them. Only saying!

    • leisa January 10, 2018 at 4:20 pm #

      spot on

  2. Dr Steve Rogowski January 4, 2018 at 3:10 pm #

    If social work is a genuine profession, practitioners should be willing and able to make such decisions on a case by case basis, though this should not preclude consultations taking place with others as may be necessary.

    • leisa January 10, 2018 at 6:15 pm #

      An assessment in Safeguardng children and assessing risk is crucial to the ongoing decision making process for children, and the foundation of good practice. Lack of scrutiny over assessements for several years now has from my experience resulted in. Poor practice, Poor decision making, and poor outcomes for Children. (This is not saying there is not some excellent practice out there far from it) However removing a level of management accountability is decisive and unnecessary.

      Removing that level of accountability can leave a SW vulnerable, and without appropriate support/backup. How easy it will be for managers to allow the SW to carry the responsibility. Outcome. More children and young people will be the removed from parents and placed into Local Authority care, This is not an assumption it is already happening. Its time to wake up. More children being received into care is not the answer. management distancing itself from accountability is not the answer. Responsibility is everybody business within the care system.

  3. leisa January 10, 2018 at 4:27 pm #

    If social Workers can make these decisions without discussions with a manager, why do you need a manager? This protectionist behaviour is setting the SW up and protecting managers. Result more and more SW will be leaving the profession.