Social workers have their say on the taskforce proposals

    The taskforce found social workers in England suffered from staff shortages, inconsistent training, poor support from employers, weak leadership and a lack of understanding from the public and media. Here, we ask social workers from several local authorities what they think of the taskforce proposals.


    Sonia Isaza, social worker on the duty and assessment team, safeguarding and social care, Camden North:

    “The biggest disappointment is that there is no mention of the huge amount of paperwork we have. It’s the number one thing affecting frontline practice and the fact that the taskforce says nothing about it is just insulting.”

    Rebecca Rosalez, senior practitioner, looked-after children’s team:

    “I’m concerned about the one-year probationary period and how that will affect not only the new social worker, but also the rest of the team that they work with. I want to know what the probation actually means and whether it would limit what the new social worker could do.”

    Phil Ferguson, social worker, children in need:

    “The main thing we’re hoping is that it will result in a bit more consistency when it comes to training. People should be prepared in the same way, whereas at the moment it’s a bit random and dependent on what university you happen to go to.”

    Bryan Rackham, social worker, children’s services:

    “I agree with all the recommendations. My one area of concern is that they don’t address the high level of bureaucracy and that bureaucracy is coming from performance indicators, which is what’s keeping us chained to our desks a lot of the time.”


    Ola Bakinson, senior social worker, adult social care:

    “The grant of a licence means that social workers would operate as ‘an independent operator’ and this role comes with liability management. But who will be responsible for funding the inherent liability, which may be civil or criminal, that arises during the course of the practice? Who will fund the renewal of a licence?”

    Monika Brettschneider, care manager, adult and community services:

    “As a social worker who qualified in Germany, where a probationary year is mandatory, I say this does not necessarily mean an improvement of placements and quality of the practical aspects of training. A social worker in a probationary year can end up as an underpaid social worker, doing the same job as their qualified colleagues.”


    Lesley Peat, social worker, adult services:

    “The recommendations about training, careers structure, CPD, employer standards and licensing will help to give social workers professional status and a strong sense of professional identity. It will also enable councils to retain experienced social ­workers and make recruitment easier.”


    Simone McKenzie, newly qualified transition social worker, working with 14 to 18-year-olds:

    “Pay is always a contentious issue. Social workers work very hard, often close to 12-hour days without overtime, so would love to be paid more. But I love my job and would not leave over the low pay. Senior social workers should be paid more, but there needs to be more clarification about what constitutes a senior social worker. Is this determined by the work you do or your years of experience?”

    Rebecca Webb, early years social worker, for children with ­disabilities:

    “Improved understanding of social work in the media would put me on the right foot before I walk through a family’s door. Parents always worry about what you’re going to dig up about them and they hold back, but then they miss the advice, support and help that I can offer. Having a voice in the media and a national college would help to reassure the public that every bad news story is not reflective of all social work practice.”

    Cristia Esimi Cruz, children and families social worker:

    “I don’t think the entry qualifications for social work should be as high as the taskforce has recommended. There are people who would seek to become social workers and may have the right skills set, but not the required qualifications, such as former service users. Their experiences and empathy would enable many to engage with clients and provide an excellent service. But many may not have the necessary qualifications.”


    Leonie Baldwin (right), senior children’s social worker:

    “Any attempts to raise the professional status of social work must be welcomed. It is particularly insightful to introduce a career structure which allows workers to move up the career ladder in such a way that does not remove skilled and experienced workers from frontline social work.

    Currently, the only method of career progression is to move into management.

    I hope that these recommendations are not simply a tokenistic gesture by the government given recent tragedies and are backed up with sufficient money and resources to make them viable.”

    Laurence Ramsey (pictured), duty practice manager, children’s services:

    “Brighton and Hove Council has managed to enhance practice through drastic change which brought many positive aspects in terms of safeguarding children. But the process was stressful for practitioners, and did nothing to address the age old issues of recruitment and retention. The taskforce’s 15 point plan does not address these issues. It just makes it more difficult to become a social worker if you lack academic skills, but have all the relevant experience. Yes, social workers do need to read and write but mostly we need common sense, integrity, compassion and devotion.”

    Francis King (pictured, right, below), children’s social worker:

    “Overall, I was very encouraged by the report and the regarding social work training were very positive, especially the probationary year which is vital to support and develop new social workers, and protect them from being thrown into an unmanageable caseload from day one.

    I was disappointed that there were so few measures specifically to address stress in social work. Better supervision, IT systems and administrative support, and caseload management were all highlighted but the inherent pressure and relentlessness of working with vulnerable and dysfunctional families needs to be addressed in order to retain frontline workers.”

    Relevant links

    Expert guide on the Social Work Task Force

    Social workers discuss the taskforce proposals on Community Care’s Care Space discussion forum

    More from Community Care

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