Ask the expert: Should I delegate case to support worker?

Roger Kline responds to a question concerning delegating a case

I have a great family support worker that I work with for part of the time; however I don’t manage her. Last week I was asked to take on another case requiring an initial assessment in circumstances which were clearly complex. I said I couldn’t take on another case due to my workload. The manager was under pressure to allocate the case so she allocated it to me but said the family support worker could do almost all the work. I’m uneasy about this, what should I do?

Roger Kline responds:

Clear accountability is at the heart of good social work practice. Your manager may think the family support worker can do almost all the work but such a judgement is not possible unless there has been an assessment of the service user’s needs.

But an initial assessment can only be done by “an experienced and qualified social worker” according to the Working Together to Safeguard Children guidelines for professionals in England. Moreover, any decision to delegate work can only be taken once there has been an assessment of needs.

Therefore you should not agree to take on this case at this stage because it is clear you will have to do the initial assessment. However, there is another reason why you should be very cautious. The General Social Care Council code of practice for social care workers states that “you remain responsible for the work that you have delegated to other workers” (paragraph 6.6).

When considering whether to delegate work, you and your manager must ask five questions:

● Has there been an assessment of needs and risk and a determination of appropriate action by a competent person?

● Is the worker to whom work is being delegated, judged by the person responsible for the delegation to be trained, qualified and competent to carry out the work?

● Is the worker to whom the work is being delegated, confident that they are appropriately qualified, trained and competent to perform the work?

● Does the delegation of this work come within the policies and protocols of the workplace?

● Is the level of supervision and follow up feedback appropriate?

Without an assessment of the needs to be addressed and how they should be addressed, it not possible to know what knowledge, skills and understanding are required to perform the delegated task. Until these criteria are met then the work should not be delegated anyway.

The manager is accountable for the safe delegation of the task or role and the social worker is responsible for such supervision as is delegated to them. The family support worker to whom the work is being delegated is also accountable for the delegated task or role, but if the case is on your caseload then you (and the manager) remain accountable overall. If things go wrong, you will be held to account so you must place any concerns on the record in writing and may need to discuss with your manager whether you should take the case on at all.

Roger Kline is the social care spokesperson for trade union Aspect

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This article is published in the 16 September issue of Community Care magazie under the heading Should I delegate case to support worker?

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