Council proposes ‘caseload guarantee’ for social workers

The council is going to invest £4 million to try and reduce social work caseloads and reduce the number of children in care

Photo: Gajus/Fotolia

A local authority is planning to introduce a “caseload threshold guarantee” for children’s social workers under a £4m reform package to improve support for young people.

Walsall council is proposing capping social work caseloads at 15 for experienced social workers and 12 for newly qualified practitioners.

The council said the move would enable social workers “to work more intensively with children who are looked after to support maintaining them safely at home and promoting placement stability when they are looked after.”

Restorative practice

The authority also wants to introduce a restorative practice approach in services and recruit more in-house foster carers to cut reliance on independent fostering agencies.

The plans are set out in the council’s budget consultation. The council believes the £4.13 million investment will generate nearly a million pounds in annual savings by 2019/20.

Alongside these proposals are reforms to contact support that will see the council introduce a toolkit for social workers to use when assessing and making contact arrangements for looked-after children going through the court process.

The move “will be a key driver to safely reducing the demand for supervised contact” and save up to £64,000, the council said.

Consultation on the full budget and savings proposals is open until 9 December 2016.

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18 Responses to Council proposes ‘caseload guarantee’ for social workers

  1. tcm November 14, 2016 at 9:48 am #

    I would love to see this work as have always advocated low case loads provide the opportunity for good quality direct Social Work, really getting to know their children and making a real difference , where they can . Its not just about numbers. Its about complexity. I assume this means 15 children and not families.?

    This is part of the retention programme to keep SW more than 6 months?

    Walsall are not unique in moving towards keeping low case load numbers . I would love to know the reality from colleagues in other parts of the country?

    Every LA say they are going to reduce LAC numbers .

    Whilst at the same time reduce Early help , children centres, support to Home start, etc., etc., etc,

    • CKTM November 15, 2016 at 6:10 am #

      As a TM in the North, in principle it is fantastic and my LA have made attempts to do this, however the issue is we cannot predict the no of new cases coming through the front door, coupled with sickness in teams, and SW’s leaving, and not being able to replace them. The figures are not constant, and we regularly fluctuate between 20 and 30 cases, although the aim is 18….. the demands of the service are so unpredictable, and no one will employ additional staff “just in case”. This is never going to be an exact science!
      Early intervention is the key in respect of reducing LAC if we ensure that families receive the right service at the right time, we can reduce the number of family breakdowns, as well as hopefully assist families to make sustained change. We also need to be realistic, there are always going to be some children where we absolutely have to, and need to accommodate.

  2. Caroline November 14, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    How about caseloads of Adult social workers ? Aren’t we overloaded too ?
    Why is the focus always on children’s workers !!

    • Ros November 14, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

      This appears to be a really positive move CYPD Social Workers, however I completely agree with the above comment. Adult Social Workers appear to be invisible when issues such as caseloads, stress and burn out are discussed. More than ever before Adult Social Workers are working with incredibly complex families and individuals within increasingly complex legislation and cut backs are that are leaving many Adult Social Workers in despair.

    • Stuart November 27, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

      It’s to do with legislation. They’ll give your work to unqualified Almoners so you can be re-deployed to children’s teams to help keep their caseloads low(ish).

  3. Peter Endersby November 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    Does this mean a downward pressure to reduce referrals thus contributing to the ever rising threshold?

  4. Kim November 14, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    I am pleased to see this but I would like this to be run out as COMPULSORY to all Councils. Having just worked as an Agency Worker I was given a caseload of over 42 the majority of which were already out of timescales. The Council then decided to ‘cap’ cases but managers ignored this. There was a significant bullying culture towards workers who struggled to manage the unmanageable caseloads. I am so burnt out with child protection Social Work that totally took over my life and there was no care offered to myself to manage this. This is why work is not undertaken and families spiral from crisis to crisis and until Social Workers decide to stand against unmanageable caseloads that lead to working day, night, and weekends, NOTHING will change……

  5. Sharon November 14, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    I totally agree with the above. I’m an adult social worker and dread returning back to work after my Mat leave as my manager has told me I can expect a caseload of 41. 41 mentally unwell service users. how am I meant to help those most vulnerable. It’s on average 2hours of work with each service user a month!!

  6. June November 14, 2016 at 5:04 pm #

    Adult services definitely need to be looked at. I work in a learning disability team and most of us have 50 cases…far too many to do a good job.

  7. sabine November 14, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

    Finally people proving they can use common sense, and put both children and staff at the centre of their planning! Very well done, Walsall!!!!

  8. Bee November 14, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

    Let me know when it happens I’ve been 35-40 cases for ages.

  9. Dannie November 14, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    my council brought in a cap of 18 for new SW joining the team. 2 years on they are still on 18 and SW who have been in the team longer than 3 years don’t have the same caseload promise so we take all the slack. So half the team
    On 18 and the rest in the high 20’s. It’s creating a divide as both being paid the same! Im all for caseload capping but unless they invest massively in staffing it won’t work!

  10. Dom. November 14, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

    Walsall trying something that’s been tried (and promised) many times over by other Authorities. And they’ve failed. Whilst I hope Walsall can achieve what others did not. Sadly I believe unless more high quality practitioners are recruited and supported to remain, and that they work to get the balance right between challenging poor inadequate care/parenting, whilst supporting said parents to change. Or removal of children for the own well-being if said change is not sustained over time. Then the professional is doomed to fail. Which I feel this #Tory Government wants. To privatise much like they are doing to Adult Social Care atm and #Virgin #RichardBranson pocket-lining. To make profit from child suffering and cruelty is nothing short of disgusting!!!

  11. Miss Mel November 15, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    Problem is children’s social care is a needs led serevive and as such difficult to plan for. SW are expected to have high caseloads and what happens is they lurch from one crisis case to another, ‘fire fighting’ many get burnt out, go off sick and or leave the profession altogether. Often there is a bullying culture as managers are placed under scrutiny to provide more for less, most Local Authority officers are under threat of restructure and or redundancy with many LAs looking to reduce those people in the 50-54 bracket so they only get the statutory redundancy payment and their pension is then frozen until 65 thereby reducing the overall liability on the council, whilst shedding the more experienced staff. It’s madness! Children will slip through the net as the net had been stretched to thin and the holes are now bigger. No I am not a lover of Social Workers but I can see where they are struck between a tick and a hard place. The whole system of social care, Cafcass and the family courts needs a root and branch review/reform.

  12. Lee November 15, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

    This is a great step forward by colleagues in Walsall well done look forward to seeing impact and learning

  13. paul owen November 16, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

    Ha, 230 cases, 8 workers 3 of whom are part time. Work it out!

  14. Dani November 17, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    I assume it will mean 15 families not children. If it assists with recruitment, retention and reducing sickness it would be welcome. However I’m afraid my optimism is waning so I wait to hear how it is going from my colleagues

    • Dannie November 18, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

      Hi Dani, unfortunately whilst it’s a great idea it clearly isn’t working in our service as 2 years on we still have half the team with a guaranteed 18 cap and the rest of us picking up the slack yet being paid the same. Perfect example today: 18 capped SW leaving on time or early and the others all staying behind as we have much higher caseload to manage. # notbitteratall
      I fear nothing will ever change unless we stand up for ourselves.