Children’s social workers ‘should work in pairs’

Children's social workers are asking to be paired on cases where there may be a risk to their safety.

Children’s social workers are asking to be paired on cases where there may be a risk to their safety.

It follows a call for co-working from a Scottish children and families team manager on Community Care’s online forum, CareSpace.

One contributor responded: “I think that children’s services social workers should be partnered up in a similar way to US homicide detectives. A caseload would then be co-owned by two workers so, if someone is off sick or on holiday, there is another worker with almost as much knowledge of the case.”

Nushra Mansuri, policy officer with the British Association of Social Workers, said this doubling up would be particularly useful on initial visits to family homes.

“When they’re knocking on the door, social workers don’t know what the risks are to themselves as well as the children inside,” she said. “In terms of health and safety, it’s a very good idea.

“It would also be good in terms of assessing the situation. When you assess risk you have to do it as an objective activity, but when it’s just one person it becomes subjective. If there are two people there, they could challenge each other’s views and gain a much better understanding overall.”

Mansuri added, however, that pressure on resources would prevent many departments taking up the idea.

Colin Green, safeguarding spokesman for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said although some cases would be easier to handle with multiple social workers, this was not the case for all.

Paul Fallon, consultant and independent safeguarding board chair, said the idea was unrealistic given the increase in referrals and tough economic times.

“It would be just lovely if two people could go out, particularly for newly qualified workers,” he said. “But given the increase in demand that started before the baby P case and then accelerated because of the government’s reaction to it, it’s just not that realistic.”

He said departments should focus on the quality of supervision. Workers who felt supported were more confident in their work, more able to challenge parents, and good management could result in the same assurance as working in pairs.

What do you think about children’s social workers doubling up? Have your say on CareSpace.

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