Half of adult social care departments in England already have a designated principal social worker and a further quarter plan to have one in place within the next three months, according to a survey by the College of Social Work (TCSW).
The government announced in July 2011 that every local authority in England would have a principal child and family social worker after accepting Professor Eileen Munro’s recommendation to that effect – but it only formally proposed extending the role to adult services in July 2012.
However, TCSW’s survey suggests adult services are rapidly catching up with children’s services departments, 70% of which now have a principal social worker in post.
Of those children’s departments without a principal social worker, three-quarters plan to designate one within the next three months.
“This vote of confidence in social work is particularly welcome in the current climate of austerity,” said Jo Cleary, chair of TCSW’s board. “It is vital that social workers are well supported to undertake the work that they are uniquely qualified to do, supporting the most vulnerable people in our society.”
The survey – which was sent out only to directors of children’s services – also hinted at a difference in approach emerging between children’s and adult services. For example, while 72% of respondents said they intended their principal child and family social worker to retain a caseload, only 36% said the same of the adult services post within their council.
Prof Munro’s review of child protection in England recommended that the creation of a principal child and family social worker role was crucial to promote high standards of practice, provide a voice for frontline staff with senior managers and encourage a reflective approach to social work within children’s services.
TCSW received responses from 126 directors of children’s services in England.