Almost half of social workers on their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) did not have a protected caseload, despite their employer promising one, a Community Care survey has revealed.
The survey of 640 social workers undertaking or having just finished their ASYE found 82% had a commitment to protected caseloads from their employer, but 49% were not experiencing one.
The ASYE was introduced in 2012 on the back of recommendations by the Social Work Task Force in 2009 as a way of better supporting new social workers into the profession. It is not mandatory, but local authorities receive a £2,000 grant per social worker employed on an ASYE from the government.
Despite the intention of the scheme to provide extra support, nearly three-quarters (74%) of social workers had three hours or less supervision a month on their ASYE, the survey found, with the most common amount of supervision being between 1.5 and three hours a month.
However, even with only limited amounts of supervision, 55% of social workers said they feel or felt supported in their first year, including 67% of those that did not have a protected caseload despite being promised one.
A majority of social workers (69%) said they would or did remain with the employer they have done their ASYE with, and almost three-quarters felt prepared to continue their career as a social worker after their ASYE.
Rachael Wardell, chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ workforce development policy committee, said there should be expected “variation” in ASYE provision due to it not being compulsory and “largely informed by the local context”.
“However, it is clear that far too few social workers feel adequately protected in their first year in practice. This variability in support, and in particular the difficulty of maintaining protected caseloads, reflects a national shortage of child and family social workers and rising levels of demand for services in the context of falling budgets and a high-stakes inspection regime, which impacts negatively on staff turnover.”
Wardell said it was encouraging that more than two-thirds of respondents would choose to stay with their employer, but added it was necessary for employers to take social workers’ professional development “to be taken forward in a consistent and holistic way” and added the ADCS will continue to push for this.
Five reported protected caseloads compared to their actual
Maris Stratulis, England manager for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said it was promising that social workers felt supported in their first year and would remain with their employer, however she stressed the importance of all ASYEs having the same opportunities and experiences.
“There is clearly evidence from this survey that there is too much variance, especially in an ASYE year,” Stratulis said.
“This, and other results from the research, further underline key messages that came out from the BASW England 80/20 campaign survey which showed that social workers do not get enough time to reflect on their practice or engage enough directly with children, young people and families.
“Protected caseloads and regular supervision are two important components of good leadership and supervisory practice standards, and if we get the standards right for social workers at the beginning of their career it will hold them in good stead throughout their career pathway, and ultimately result in good quality relationship-based work with children and their families,” she said.
The Department for Education has confirmed they have contracted Skills for Care to lead a programme to ensure newly-qualified child and family social workers receive quality support. It said it was vital that newly-qualified social workers are given caseloads suited to their skills and experience.