Children’s social workers: how big is your caseload?

Social workers regularly report unmanageable workloads, but DfE figures show caseloads for children's practitioners are stable at just over 16. Does this reflect your experience? Take our survey

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(credit StockPhotoPro / Adobe Stock)

This survey has now closed. We will share the findings shortly.

Last week, Department for Education released data estimating that average statutory children’s social worker caseloads were 16.3 as of September 2021.

This marked a levelling-off of caseloads, year-on-year, following three successive annual declines.

However, almost four-fifths of children’s practitioners surveyed by Community Care last year said their caseloads were either “completely unmanageable” or “hard to manage”. And the DfE’s estimate – which it says should be treated with caution – has historically been greeted with scepticism by many practitioners.

So, we want to hear from children’s social workers in statutory services in England about what your caseloads are, how manageable they are and their impact on your life, wellbeing and future plans.

The survey should take no more than 10 minutes of your time and responses are, by default, anonymous. It will run until Friday 11 March.

Community Care will share the findings as soon as we are able to.

13 Responses to Children’s social workers: how big is your caseload?

  1. Kelly February 28, 2022 at 8:41 am #

    I’m of the understanding that these figures are sometimes skewed because they include non case holding social workers like team managers.

  2. Ali Jay February 28, 2022 at 11:57 am #

    I had an interview and was told that I would have 24 cases coming my way. I had to run and so I did.

  3. Tara February 28, 2022 at 1:31 pm #

    I think the idea of an average caseload is outdated, you cannot predict someone’s work load based on a number that includes no context of what working with those families entails. It does nothing but promote unrealistic expectations of what is ‘manageable’ and what is not.

  4. Anonymous February 28, 2022 at 8:10 pm #

    I manage a Team of five social workers who average around 26 cases, it has been known at times over the last six months for aome to have 30. This is totally unmanageable, since March last year we have had Team caseload as much as 148 – 152. Just to be told by senior managers to simply “just get on with it”.

    • Anonymous March 2, 2022 at 6:01 am #

      Why is this never asked of adults social workers?

      Our team has 1200 people we support. We have 24 assessors.

      That’s 50 people each. Including a range of complex cases that involve court work and but also includes annual reviews.

      There needs to be a statutory tool for working out what is fair and equitable.

      • Mithran Samuel
        Mithran Samuel March 2, 2022 at 9:56 am #

        Very sorry to hear that. Best to you and colleagues in managing the situation. And good point. We will make sure we do an adults’ survey this year. We just do a children’s one at this point to make a comparison with the DfE stats.

  5. Anonymous February 28, 2022 at 10:42 pm #

    No-one in our team has less than 22! The majority of us are on 25+, it’s unmanageable and dangerous. Most of us are currently looking to leave the LA, this is not an isolated situation.

    • DLB March 7, 2022 at 7:53 pm #

      I think 22 is a reasonable number. I’d have been very happy with that as in a front line cp/con/court team.

  6. Anonymous March 4, 2022 at 4:52 pm #

    I am a senior social worker and not supposed to casehold, however, currently have a caseload of 14 as well as management responsibilities. The SW’s in the team have a caseload of 30/32, which is unmanageable and dangerous. They are tired and resilience is low. There is no support from higher management, who perpetuate a get on with it approach. There is no consideration of the complexity of cases, in particular the increase in adolescent mental health and the lack of resources. SW’s are fed up of being told that average case loads are 16. This is only true for newly qualified SW’s. Teams need more SW’s; more support from Early Help services; improved pay and a better work life balance. When SW’s are working long hours to try and get reports written in timescales, this impacts on their mental health. Who is supporting us and fighting for better conditions??

  7. Anon March 7, 2022 at 6:17 pm #

    These figures are skewed. Deliberately in my view. The figures include ASYE, senior social workers, fostering social workers and non caseholding social work roles. This brings down the average caseload figure. It’s simple maths. In my experience most experienced social workers in the North East would often hold in excess of 20 to 30 children’s cases. These are complex cases often with a number of care proceedings. The figure if 16 cases is inaccurate and misleading.

  8. Alison March 7, 2022 at 8:06 pm #

    Can anyone tell me what a “case” is? Is the number of families or the number of children eg if I have a family of 5 children is that 5 cases (all need support).

    • Mithran Samuel
      Mithran Samuel March 7, 2022 at 8:32 pm #

      Thanks Alison. As defined by the DfE: A case is defined as any person allocated to a named social worker, where the work involves child and family social work. Cases may be held by social workers regardless of their role in the organisation and not just those specifically in a ‘case holder’ role.
      So we would follow that for our survey too. So each of the children – if allocated to you – would constitute ‘a case’.
      Thanks, Mithran

  9. Anneli March 8, 2022 at 3:41 pm #

    I have a 100 files.. too much..