Scots social workers boxed in by too much form-filling, says review head

The chair of the 21st Century Review of Social Work in Scotland
has said excessive paperwork is restricting the autonomy of
front-line social workers.

Specialist public sector management consultant Willy Roe, who is
heading the review for the Scottish executive, said burdensome
bureaucracy tended to exist in “systems where there isn’t a lot of

The review group’s interim report finds social workers are
spending so much time on form-filling and bureaucracy that they are
unable to establish effective relationships with clients (news,
page 8, 14 April).
Speaking exclusively to Community Care, Roe said: “Burdensome
bureaucracyÉ is used as a way of controlling the actions of
people. We need to find a way of replacing it with more trusting

“By empowering people at the front line to take more
responsibility and account for their decisions you get more
effective organisations.”

But writing in the review’s May newsletter, North Ayrshire
social work director Bernadette Docherty, who chairs the review’s
social worker subgroup, said some paperwork while “onerous” was
“absolutely necessary” and that most form-filling was in response
to government requirements for information.

“Good recording is necessary to facilitate information-sharing
and joint decision-making. We also understand much better the need
for accurate recording to safeguard children and adults. Finding
the most efficient way to do it is the challenge,” she said.

Docherty, chair of the Association of Directors of Social Work
children and families committee, also said the subgroup had
identified that core social work skills had been squeezed as a
result of an “enormous growth” in social workers’ workload in the
past 10 to 15 years following the introduction of key

Roe said that there was a strong case for social workers to do
more preventive work. But Docherty said this would be difficult
because “there is a strong view that dealing with complex needs is
where social workers’ skills really come to the fore”.


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