CC Live: Social workers threaten to quit over red tape

Social workers are considering leaving the profession because of the burden of bureaucracy.

Social workers are considering leaving the profession because of the burden of bureaucracy.

Frontline professionals warned today during sessions at Community Care Live they were suffering from the levels of administration and the complexity of the system.

One hospital social worker said she felt her secretarial skills were valued more than her professional qualification.

“I don’t feel I’m using the skills I learned at university and I feel like a bureaucrat. I’m seriously thinking of leaving social work. I’ve had enough. We’ve all had enough. Something’s got to be done about it,” she said to widespread applause from the audience.

She was speaking at the session, No Health Without Mental Health: A New Strategy for Mental Health?

Others warned that the complexity of the system was making service users wait far too long, while the social worker was unable to spend enough time with their clients.

Officials from the Department of Health and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said they sympathised with their plight and were looking into ways to reduce levels.

DH mental health director Bruce Calderwood said the roll-out of the new mental health strategy, No Health without Mental Health, could reduce the administrative burden for mental health social workers. Its focus on outcomes could strip away the “process targets” – in effect, box-ticking exercises – that had grown over the past 15 years.

He admitted to being shocked at by how much the levels of admin had limited the time mental health professionals could spend with patients.

The subject of bureaucracy was also raised by Adass past president Richard Jones during the session, Creating a Sustainable Solution to the Funding of Care and Support.

Acknowledging that social workers in adults’ services were being asked to collect data that was not required, he said: “We’ve got to make our services lean and simple.

“We can’t continue to sustain the complexity we’ve had. We’ve got to take responsibility there and go back to some basic questions about what we value. We collect a whole set of stuff we don’t value.”

Claire Barcham, interim safeguarding manager and national co-ordinator for the Approved Mental Health Practitioners’ network, had earlier told No Health Without Mental Health that children’s services professionals could teach adult mental health services about reducing burden.

Speaking at a session on The Professional Capabilities Framework, Jo Cleary, who jointly chairs Adass’s workforce development network, said adults’ services needed a Munro-style review.

Among its recommendations, Munro’s review into child protection and children’s services called for a reduction in bureaucracy.

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