Fears over poorly qualified out-of-hours social work staff

    The increased use of non-social work qualified support staff to
    field out-of-hours inquiries in social services departments is
    causing concern among some emergency duty teams, writes
    Derren Hayes

    In a study of 28 by the Thomas Coram Institute, the quality and
    supply of support staff was raised as a problem in eight local
    authorities using different types of duty system, while others said
    the lack of status given to EDTs had seen a dearth of experienced
    social workers attracted to it.

    This caused some managers to speculate whether all child protection
    referrals to the teams were being dealt with most
    appropriately.

    “For example, when taking referrals from professionals in
    other agencies, assistants were or could be influenced by the
    opinion of the professionals rather than being able to make their
    own assessment,” the study reported.

    One manager said the teams were “the dying ground for
    burned-out social workers”, resulting in the move to use
    unqualified workers for front desk duties.

    More and better training to enable support staff to distinguish
    between the types of referrals and appropriate responses was
    needed, according to the respondents. Call takers needed to have
    greater awareness of the types of referrer to social services, and
    the states of distress people might be in.

    Managers in three areas where out-of-hours calls were fielded by
    call centres were concerned these could cover too broad a range of
    services to attend to the specific needs of those contacting social
    workers.

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