Under-resourcing undermines social workers’ ability to do job

Running the children’s hearing system in Scotland on the
cheap is undermining social workers’ ability to carry out
preventive work with young people and their families,
writes Derren Hayes.

Ruth Stark, professional officer at the British Association of
Social Work Scotland, said she had seen under-resourcing of the
system “creep in” since the mid-1980s. This was
reducing the amount of time social workers spent with clients and
affecting their ability to prioritise prevention work over formal

“One of the principles of the hearing system was to
minimise intervention but, because the lack of resources, they
[social workers] can’t do that now. We want to prevent
children being catapulted into the formal system but this takes
time and that’s been squeezed out of the system,”
explained Stark.

She added that, as a practicing social worker in Scotland in the
1970s, she had the time to visit families whose children were
subject of the hearing system and interview the children

“Social workers now visit families once every three weeks
and don’t have time to speak to the child on their

Stark said that social workers today spent too much time
“regurgitating information and filling in forms
triplicate”. “We are losing the analysis about what the
issues are for a family and the child.”

However, she said the profession needed to base its arguments
for more resources on hard data and research showing the better
outcomes that preventive work could achieve.


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