Adult social services directors have received fresh guidance on deploying social workers including advice on case allocation and building practitioners’ confidence to take decisions.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) and Skills for Care resource provides council chiefs with a series of tools, case studies and background information to help them allocate their social workers in the most effective way.
It is the follow-up to a 2010 advice note, which advised directors to produce a local statement identifying functions that should be carried out by registered social workers, such as conducting safeguarding investigations.
Besides updating the 2010 note to take account of changes such as the publication of the Social Work Reform Board’s Standards for employers and supervision framework, the latest resource provides advice on seven different aspects of deploying social workers. It was based on a literature review and focus groups involving practitioners and managers.
The seven sections are:-
- Working with risk – how employers can deploy social workers to support positive risk-taking among service users while meeting legal and safeguarding responsibilities;
- Understanding demand – using joint strategic needs assessments and other tools to understand levels of need for social work among adults in the local area;
- Understanding resource – assessing the level of social work skills and analysing how staff use their time, so that available social work resources can be matched to need in the community;
- Developing a culture of effective practice leadership – getting the best out of social workers through effective workload management, line management and supervision;
- Understanding impact – assessing the impact of social work on outcomes for service users and the value for money of deploying professionals;
- Sharing best practice – how councils can learn from other organisations in how they deploy their social workers;
- Building professional confidence – how employers can support social workers to be confident and improve their ability to take decisions in practice.
Allocating cases to social workers by complexity
The Adass and Skills for Care guidance on deploying social workers includes a series of workload management vignettes, with examples of how some councils have sought to allocate cases to social workers, and other staff, based on their level of complexity. Here is one example:
A local authority is seeking to establish what is needed by way of numbers and levels of social workers and assistants/care coordinators.
After taking into account Fair Access to Care Services eligibility it is applying to cases the following factors:
Scores are given for each (1-3) and tiers of complexity worked out:
Tier 1 – 1-9 points
Tier 2 – 10-13 points
Tier 3 – 14-18 points
The guidance comes weeks after the Audit Commission urged councils to replace social workers with non-social work qualified staff in carrying out assessment and reviews, on the basis that this would save money without hurting quality. It also follows evidence from a report from personalisation charity In Control of the pressures on social workers as they seek to implement personal budgets at a time of cuts.
Both the Audit Commission and In Control reports put forward the idea that social workers should be deployed in complex, but not more routine, cases. The Adass and Skills for Care guidance said some organisations had “developed models which define complexity” to help determine work that should be allocated to social workers and cases that can “safely be allocated to those with different skills and experience”.
These are included in a series of workload management vignettes (see right). The resource was written for Skills for Care and Adass by social care consultancy CPEA Ltd.