Local authority social work is in a state of flux under the impact of cuts and personalisation. Increased rationing and bureaucracy are causing increased dissatisfaction for users and professionals alike, while some councils are outsourcing social work jobs to other agencies. The situation has prompted questions over whether the model of having most practitioners employed by councils is fit for purpose, or whether professionals, service users and taxpayers would be better off if independent practices or agencies became social workers’ major employers.
In this special report, we profile six organisations that are delivering social work outside a local authority context and examine what service users want from social workers and how far this can be delivered within councils. Also, three social workers – one council practitioner, one employee of an independent social work practice and one who has left local authority practice to set up his own business – discuss why they are doing the job that they are doing.
The organisations below have been funded to develop their social work services through the Social Care Institute of Excellence’s social work practice pioneer scheme. Natalie Valios looks at the role of social workers within them.