Drowning in paperwork

It’s official: social care professionals are drowning in paperwork. Our survey of more than 2,200 professionals reveals that more than half are having to spend more than 60 per cent of their time on administration work rather than in direct contact with clients.

The problem is so bad that cutting bureaucracy comes out higher on respondents’ workforce priorities than increasing pay. Meanwhile, more than half are considering becoming independent social workers. Clearly, social care professionals “can’t get no (job) satisfaction” from this situation, and clients probably aren’t left feeling particularly satisfied either, if it means that professionals have less time to spend with them.

Our survey corresponds to findings earlier this year from the 21st Century Review of Social Work in Scotland which found social workers were spending so much time on administrative tasks that it was hampering their ability to practice innovatively and develop proper relationships with clients.

The recruitment and retention problem in social care may be old news, but it has yet to be solved. The government has made half-hearted attempts with recruitment campaigns, but never on the scale that it did with teachers when it was seriously concerned about the numbers entering this profession.

The answer seems commonsensical. The government should do for social care professionals what it did for teachers. Rather than trying – and doubtless failing – to recruit more social workers, it should reallocate resources and shift some of the paperwork from qualified staff to junior assistants.

At the same time it should ensure that social care assistants have a career pathway in place, so that they are not left in an office with only paperwork for company, going nowhere, until they decide to leave the profession.

And it has the perfect chance to do this in the government workforce review, Options for Excellence. No one is saying paperwork isn’t necessary: on client records, the opposite is true. But if we have reached a stage where admin has become so onerous that people are thinking twice about staying in a profession that already has too many vacancies, then we’ve gone too far.

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