Sixteen per cent of social workers have more than 40 cases on the go, while nearly 90% say high case-loads are affecting their ability to practise good social work, a Community Care survey has revealed.
The poll of more than 600 social workers also found that more than four-fifths (82%) said their caseload has increased over the past year.
However, while 10% of children’s social workers have more than 40 cases on the go, the proportion rises to 22% for adult social workers. Some social workers reported caseloads of 70 and 80; a few cited more than 100.
“Another Baby P, Victoria Climbié, Khyra Ishaq is waiting to happen and it will unless the government does something about the excessive caseloads we are supposed to manage,” said one children’s social worker who responded to the survey.
“My colleagues and I in the older people’s services team are on our knees with workload pressures,” said a social worker in adult services.
Hundreds of social workers gave detailed comments on their caseloads, saying the sheer volume of work was affecting their health and practice.
“The increase in my caseload has meant that I am merely troubleshooting and lurching from crisis to crisis without being able to do any of the preventative work to stop things getting to crisis point,” said one children’s social worker.
“Social work values and codes of practice are constantly being compromised so that targets can be met,” reported an adults’ social worker.
Helga Pile, Unison officer for social workers, said: “These finding should serve as a warning to the government and employers – the situation is unsustainable and getting worse. Excessive caseloads for social workers mean unsafe services – it’s another accident waiting to happen. “
“Ministers are concerned that social workers are working against a backdrop of high caseloads, low morale and a lack of public understanding about the difficult and demanding job they do,” said a Department for Education spokesperson in response to the findings.
“It is a priority to turn around the social work profession which is why ministers have asked Professor Eileen Munro to carry out an independent review of child protection. The review will build on the recommendations of the Social Work Task Force, which the government has committed to taking forward,” the spokesperson added
Community Care has submitted the full results of its caseloads survey to Munro, who has said she will consider the evidence as part of her review.
What do you think?
Social workers tell Community Care their views on high caseloads
● “Another Baby P, Victoria Climbié, Khyra Ishaq is waiting to happen and it will, unless the government does something about the excessive caseloads we are supposed to manage. Teachers wouldn’t be expected to have a class full of children three times the expected number so why should we have to put up with it?” Children’s social worker
● “With caseloads of over 30 people even if you were seeing people every day there would still not be enough days to see people once per month.” Adults’ social worker
● “I currently have 69 cases on a duty and assessment team. It never ends, I am terrified something will happen on one of my cases.” Children’s social worker
● “Social work is all about quality time with service users/clients and at the moment there is just too much paperwork/form filling and large caseloads to really afford quality time with the client.” Children’s social worker
● “High caseloads impact on social workers’ ability to carry out any therapeutic work. We number crunch for statistics so that the council meets its targets/standards. We provide minimum education to families and clients as we don’t have the time. Our own professional development is hindered and working to the code of practice does not exist.” Adults’ social worker
● “Gone are the days when you can be proud of your work. I am not proud of any of my work and feel that each day is another tick off a list that is unacceptable.” Children’s social worker
● “Children over the age of five get a limited service until they reach crisis point and the local authority is forced to remove; when there is little hope of making changes to enable children to either return to birth families or find an appropriate long term placement.” Children’s social worker
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