Adult directors receive guidance on deploying social workers

Advice note from Skills for Care and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services designed to help councils get maximum impact from their social work staff.

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:-  


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:

  • Risk;
  • Breadth of need – for example multiple health and social care needs, need for specialists, OTs;
  • Depth of need – low, moderate and high;
  • Resource availability – how difficult will it be to get the right resource to meet assessed need;
  • Contact time required.

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.

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