A revamped social work health check, which aims to be more user-friendly and provide greater learning on workforce wellbeing than the current one, will launch in spring 2020.
The new health check is designed to be simpler for principal social workers to implement in their localities, provide a better view of councils’ strengths and weaknesses and offer guidance on how to respond to these.
It is also designed to collect comparable data over time on what best fosters social worker wellbeing, and even to potentially compare social work with other professions.
The revised check arises from the coming together of two parallel pieces of work: a project to redevelop the check led by What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) and involving the Local Government Association (LGA), which is responsible for the existing check; and one investigating the organisational factors that support the wellbeing of staff by Research in Practice and the University of Bedfordshire.
Both projects had involved the development of surveys of workforce wellbeing, and WWCSC and RiP said they identified clear crossovers between the two pieces of work and agreed it would be best to work together to produce a single survey.
This will be supplemented by a workbook, published last month by RiP and Bedfordshire University as part of their Social Work Organisational Resilience Diagnostic (SWORD) project, offering employers solutions to diagnosed issues.
While both projects have so far focused on children’s social work, the revised health check will cover adult social work as well, and the organisations will work with the Adult Principal Social Worker Network over the coming months to ensure that the survey is applicable to practice with adults.
Another issue that will need to be resolved is ownership of the data collected through the revamped health check. WWCSC and RiP said this was a “complex issue” and a consultation would begin early in the New Year on tackling it, in conjunction with the LGA and the principal social worker networks.
Challenges for PSWs
Anna Bacchoo, head of practice for WWCSC, said it had found that 56% of social workers had not done a health check in the past year and that PSWs, who tend to be responsible for it, found the existing check challenging for several reasons.
“[PSWs] either feel they need to design their own [health check] or somewhat defy it to fit their specific circumstances, and that’s difficult or that they complete a health check survey but then aren’t really sure then what to do with the results to effect change.”
Bacchoo says the new health check would be standardised and use validated measures which would make it much easier for PSW’s to implement.
Dr Louise Grant, who has led the SWORD project work with her Bedfordshire University colleague Professor Gail Kinman, said: “We’ve already done some piloting on our measures to make sure that they are able to be validated. And Gail, as an occupational health psychologist, her expertise in this area I think is particularly valuable and can help us to ensure that we’re using scales that are validated but also we can actually see things across wider populations and so that we can look at things over time and also potentially compare with other professions.”
Susannah Bowyer, assistant director for RIP, added that if all local authorities were using the same standardised version it would create an opportunity to build a comparable dataset over time across the sector, which “we just simply don’t have at all at a national level now”.
The new health check will remain a ‘self-service’ tool for local authorities – chiefly PSWs – to implement themselves. and WWCSC and RiP said it would be designed to be easy to complete and interpret.
Grant said her hopes are “for it to not just be a diagnostic tool which finds problems, but actually solves them”.