The average number of cases held by a children’s social worker is 17.4, government statistics have estimated.
This suggests the number of caseloads held by social workers has fallen marginally since last year’s figures, which said the average was 17.8, although the government has once again urged caution when interpreting caseload figures.
The figure is calculated by dividing the total number of cases held by full-time equivalent social workers at September 30 2018 by the number of full-time equivalent social workers that hold one or more cases.
The statistics said the number of cases held was 327,420, with 18,790 social workers and agency workers holding the cases. A case is defined as a child allocated to a social worker – therefore a family of three siblings would be three individual cases – and a carer or carers allocated to a social worker for the purposes of fostering or adoption.
The government’s average is quite different from the number reported by social workers in a Community Care survey last year, which found the median average for a children’s social worker was 25.
The Department for Education urged caution when interpreting the figures, as it said the number of cases held was “significantly smaller” than the number of children in need – 404,710 – as of 31 March 2018.
“This could be due to a number of factors including different count dates, different interpretations of the guidance around what constitutes a case, or, as this is a new data item, data quality issues.
“As a result caution should be used when interpreting these figures,” the report said.
The caseload measure varied from as low as 12 in Kingston and Richmond, to 26.8 for North East Lincolnshire.
“Some of this variation may be explained by different local practices in case management,” the report said.
“Collecting individual level data for the past two years allows us to calculate an average caseload measure. Local authorities have reported difficulties with linking the number of cases to the social worker holding those cases, therefore care should be taken interpreting caseload figures,” it said.
More social workers
Elsewhere, the statistics found the turnover rate for children’s social workers across England rose from 15% to 16% in the year with 5,150 social workers leaving their job at the time during the year ending September 30 2018.
The vacancy rate remained similar to the previous year, and overall the profession saw a 3% growth in the number of social workers working in the profession, both in terms of headcount and full-time equivalent workers.
The children’s minister, Nadhim Zahawi, highlighted the finding that there has never been more full-time equivalent social workers working in children’s services as there are today.
Zahawi said: “Children’s social care is only as good as the people who deliver it, and despite the competitive jobs market and low levels of unemployment, social work continues to be an attractive career option.
“There have never been more children and families social workers in post since we began collecting this important workforce data, which means there are more dedicated people on the frontline to offer much needed support to some of most vulnerable children and families in the country.”