Beware of dilution

“Too much paperwork, too little time spent with clients” is a
common refrain among social workers and one that is at last being
heard if recent developments are anything to go by. The interim
findings of the 21st century review of social work in Scotland
lament the inability of social workers to form therapeutic
relationships with clients because of high caseloads and
bureaucratic excess. And the children’s workforce strategy, from
the Department for Education and Skills, says that social workers
should be given more time to “concentrate on the complex work that
needs their skills”.

The DfES strategy talks of remodelling the workforce on the
lines of the teaching profession and introducing social pedagogues
trained in education, health and social care. If the upshot is that
social workers are enabled to make better use of their professional
skills, all well and good. But neither the workforce strategy, nor
for that matter the 21st century review, should be seen as an
opportunity to dilute the contribution of social work. The case for
more, better trained support staff is stronger than ever, but it
must always be clear where their responsibilities end and those of
qualified social workers begin.


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