‘Desk-based social work that can be done from anywhere’: Ofsted issues warning over remote working

Inspectorate raises concerns about staff working many miles from the communities they serve, and lack of peer support and face-to-face training arising from increased hybrid working

Two people on a video call
Photo: fizkes/Adobe Stock

What impact has the shift towards home working post-Covid had on the quality of social work?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Remote working practices introduced during Covid are putting the quality of social work practice at risk, Ofsted has warned.

The inspectorate particularly highlighted the practice of people working remotely for employers many miles away and raised concerns about the impact on peer support and learning of remote working, in a report this week on recovering from Covid.

Ofsted also joined other sector leaders in raising concerns about the impact of agency working on council budgets and children, particularly the growing practice of agencies selling teams of staff to employers rather than individual workers.

It said that staff recruitment and retention was the greatest challenge the sector faced and that it had gotten worse during the past two years. This had resulted in the loss of experienced staff, leaving newly qualified practitioners covering more posts and having fewer colleagues to learn from.

The report, which drew on 29 inspection reports from 2021-22 and focus groups with inspectors, also said that cases were growing more complex, including as a result of Covid. This meant social workers were facing greater workloads even though Department for Education (DfE) figures showed caseloads remaining stable from 2020-21.

Risks of ‘desk-based social work’

After a large reduction in face-to-face visits during lockdowns, Ofsted said it had now been restored where this was best for children and families, with remote contact used only when suitable and beneficial.

However, the inspectorate said social workers were increasingly looking further afield for jobs and it had seen examples of practitioners from rural areas working in London boroughs that offered higher salaries.

Image of man with laptop making video call (credit: fizkes / Adobe Stock)

(credit: fizkes / Adobe Stock)

“This is now possible because of remote working, which enables some desk-based social work to be done from anywhere,” said the report. “However, this way of working is concerning, as it could erode the quality of social work if social workers lack local knowledge and understanding of the communities that they serve, which are important elements of social work.”

It also raised concerns about the shift to hybrid working since Covid, with many staff now working from home more than they did previously.

Though this was variable and many local authorities were still deciding on their working policies, Ofsted said it was concerned about what could be lost by limiting office work.

‘Face-to-face support needed for social work to thrive’

“For good social work practice to thrive, staff need to be in face-to-face contact to build meaningful relationships that provide support and supervision. This is essential for calibration and moderation of judgments and decisions among peers.

“Additionally, working together face to face creates opportunities for informal support and learning, and helps to maintain and boost morale. Social workers often encounter challenging and emotional situations, and it is important that they are able to talk through these with colleagues.”

Ofsted said this was particularly important for newly qualified social workers, who had trained and qualified under pandemic conditions, with much less opportunity to learn from more experienced colleagues than previous cohorts.

It also said its inspections had found that much training was still online, and raised concerns about the quality of learning that social workers derived from this.

Online training concerns

“There are concerns that online training requires less engagement and therefore minimises the amount of learning that is retained,” the report added. “During inspections, we heard of staff completing large numbers of online training courses in a single day and therefore having insufficient time to engage with and reflect on the content.”

Staff also lost out on interactions with colleagues to help them embed learning, Ofsted said.

It urged employers to consider the limitations of online learning when planning future training. When permitting remote working, they should ensure they “retain the peer support and learning and development opportunities that are afforded by office working and time spent with colleagues”.

On recruitment and retention, Ofsted said pre-pandemic challenges had gotten worse over the past two years, citing DfE figures showing that 8.6% of statutory children’s social workers had left the sector altogether in 2020-21, up from 7.2% the year before.

While 500 more children’s social workers joined statutory children’s social work in 2020-21 than left, the gap had narrowed from a 1,300 net increase in 2018-19.

Poor retention of experienced staff

“Many staff have left the sector or retired early, including a large number of highly experienced staff,” said the report. “The poor retention of experienced staff creates difficulties for local authorities, as it means that newly qualified staff are covering a greater proportion of posts. Newly qualified staff require more oversight and support, and now have fewer experienced colleagues to learn from.”

Ofsted also joined a growing chorus of concern among sector leaders regarding agency social work and, in particular, the practice of agencies sending in teams, rather than individuals, to work in local authorities.

Agency work concerns

Ofsted said agencies were “outcompeting local authorities for staff from a limited pool of workers”, both through offering more flexibility and higher pay, and the more recent growth in the use of managed agency teams.

Agency teams ‘better for staff but worse for councils’

“Previously, agency work could be very unstable and require staff to work mainly within unfamiliar teams, but now many agencies have moved to contracting whole teams of staff for fixed periods,” it said.

“This means that some agency staff now benefit from the stability of working within a consistent team of colleagues, and having guaranteed work schedules for several weeks or months at a time.”

The report added: “While this may provide better working conditions for agency employees, the new way of contracting limits flexibility for commissioning local authorities, and can increase costs.”

On caseloads, it said these had increased in some areas because social workers were hesitant about stepping children down to lower levels of intervention because of concerns about the risks they faced in a post-lockdown environment.

Though DfE caseload figures – which the department itself says need to be treated with caution – have shown these remained stable from 2020-21, Ofsted said complexity had increased during the pandemic.

“As social workers deal with increasingly complex cases, workloads will rise, even if the number of children on the caseload remains stable,” it added.

, , ,

56 Responses to ‘Desk-based social work that can be done from anywhere’: Ofsted issues warning over remote working

  1. Becca July 30, 2022 at 9:30 am #

    Ofsted doesn’t get most things right but they are about this. BASW and the like gush about “improving practice by embracing new technology” because representing mainly independent social workers and academics, remote working is their core. Employers love most of it too because in the long run they will use this as a justification for reducing staff numbers, mileage allowances, travel loans and the like. My manager is barely in our team base now. Most of my communication with her is over the phone, including on those very rare occasion when it’s supervision.

  2. T. Deen July 30, 2022 at 2:11 pm #

    High caseloads, poor work life balance and no overtime. Run social workers into the ground and they will leave. Its very bad for children and families.

    • Abdul August 5, 2022 at 10:54 am #

      You nailed it. It’s the only profession (besides Teaching) in the UK, where their Practitioners have no choice but to work almost double their paid working hours -for free – to keep up with a high and unmanageable caseload. The Local Authority takes no responsibility for conditions which are actually illegal and unsafe, and everything is on the Social Worker, and nothing is on them. That’s why I’m running away after 25 years, no work / life balance, and little safety for the children and Social Workers – were both victims of an uncaring profession.

  3. Alyson Hope July 31, 2022 at 9:55 am #

    It wasn’t too long ago that BASW was urging social workers to embrace technology as a means for career enhancement. Emperors new clothes turns out to be rather ill fitting and not so brilliant for people in contact with services though. Who would’ve thought that seeing someone in the flesh and in their own environment was useful. Social work leaders should really venture out of their gilded technology cages and inhale the air us mere plodding social workers share in our material communities. Sure it isn’t always pure and clean as the oft wiped PC screen but it is a better version of the actual world. Imagined realities creating imaginary policies about imagined people is the burden foisted on social workers by the fad obsessed. Validation by podcast chums might be the delusion that never disappoints but it really isn’t leadership.

  4. Prem July 31, 2022 at 10:49 am #

    Ofsted needs to move with time and stop living in a different world. Hybrid working is good for people’s wellbeing and work life balance and there is no evidence that working in an office is more effective than hybrid working. Its just an opinion by Ofsted without any evidence.

    • Dodger August 1, 2022 at 8:00 am #

      Have you asked the people you are supposed to be “helping” what they think about it?

      • dk August 1, 2022 at 3:12 pm #

        Well, quite. But the original point stands; this is literally just Ofsted’s opinion. They’re offering nothing like a robust evidence base for it. But they never really do.

        • Dodger August 2, 2022 at 12:22 am #

          Not sure about that. Being able to visit people while they are able to visit your place of work is proper evidence that office working works if only just on the basis of allowing service users choice. Unless ofcourse you are happy for people to come to your home. In which case you are a psychotherapist not a social worker so should claim a concession on your BASW membership.

      • Joe Hung August 5, 2022 at 9:09 am #

        Nothing to think about really. Residents need a visit, its done. Residents want to come to the office, I meet them there.

        • Carlton August 5, 2022 at 6:11 pm #

          And when on the very rare occasion you might think “actually that didn’t go as well as it should have done” do you phone a friend?

  5. Trevor July 31, 2022 at 4:03 pm #

    Don’t understand how Ofsted inspect services that rely on social workers sitting infront of screens filling in forms and inputting ‘data’ without a murmur and suddenly get a tad miffed now. What have you been scrutinising all this time?

  6. TiredSocialWorker July 31, 2022 at 11:41 pm #

    I remember the outcry in the days when hotdesking was new. Now my local authority has no desks let alone hot desks.. We just adapt and do whatever don’t we. Even when it destroys us. Surely enough is enough.

  7. adult social worker August 1, 2022 at 9:39 am #

    This applies to adult services too. LA’s contracting with entire agency social work teams.

  8. Mark August 1, 2022 at 3:41 pm #

    I struggle to understand how anyone that works with vulnerable people honestly believes that remote working is in their best interests. So much of what we do in SW is observational, what is the situation like, surroundings, family dynamics, interactions between clients and the significant others within their immediate support network and so on. So much of this and more is lost when you’re talking to someone via Teams or even just the telephone. If you want to work from home, train and qualify for a job in customer services.

  9. Fed up sw August 1, 2022 at 7:07 pm #

    Social work has bigger problems than remote working. Just deflecting from the abuse, poor wages, institutional bullying, poor inter team working and service neglect

    • Got the bus to work August 2, 2022 at 12:51 pm #

      Remote working is the precise definition of the big problems in social work. Know something is not remotely(!) even an approximation of a core value but go with it anyway because its “new” and gets you a tweet about ” innovation”. It called social work for a reason don’t you think?

    • Phil Thornmill August 5, 2022 at 11:26 am #

      Exactly!

      Everyone (central government, local authorities, ofsted, the public and even the local dogs associations) assumes that the SW neither has nor deserves a real life…

      So sad.

      Instead of addressing the fundamental issues, the system (with ofsted as the arrowhead) basically chooses to continue to stress the beleaguered SW.

      And the leadership of SW nationwide is basically complicit in this rampant “systemic abuse” of the frontline SW.

      It’s almost as if they (SW leaders) are forever in “apology mode” and bending over backwards to prove that SW is a “real profession”; hence they too readily agree to whichever half-baked ideas emerge from people’s heads. Things that nurses, doctors and even the police services will never accept!

      The cream of the profession is slowly but surely abandoning ship, as they can’t take the bullying any more.

      So only the newbies with little to no experience remain to receive the starvation wages and oftentimes humiliating terms and conditions in the various organisations.

      Solutions?

      For a start, SW leaders should stop apologising and start standing up for the profession.

      You can only get quality if you’re willing to invest money, time and effort.

      Otherwise, in 10 years there will be extremely few professionals left to deliver the much-vaunted “essential services” to the public.

  10. SocialWorkerS August 1, 2022 at 7:51 pm #

    I am on the opinion that its important to balance things out. Personally, I think that Ofstead took it to the extreme with their feedback, there’s a lot to learn from Covid and SOME remote working is one of them as it’s has many benefits for social workers wellbeing which is important to service delivery. On the flip side, social workers must be aware of our practice values and recognise that things such as face to face visits are key to safeguarding and healthy relationships. In terms of agency staff, who does not deserve to get paid well for what they do? Social workers. So Ofstead and some MPs are saying that Social workers should continue to work under such pressures and struggle financially too, there is no way this is fair, such comments are clearly only thinking of the costs this have on the government, not giving a damn about social workers at all.

  11. Ange August 1, 2022 at 11:18 pm #

    Nobody ever recognises the important role of support workers within csc. I have worked for 20 years in various support roles, contact officer, family centre worker, cypf worker, IDVA and back to being a support worker. Very under recognised for the support we offer to families, domestic abuse work, direct work, parenting assessments pams assessments, supporting with benefits, food parcels, implementing routines, taking kids to school , parents to appointments. Cases couldnt progress without our input but theres never any mention of any of this. We get called to court to give evidence in proceedings and my reports have been praised by the judge but little acknowledgement from managers or OFSTED. In the past we have taken the lead on cin cases and now we are co working cases with the newly qualified. AYSE workers so they can develop their skilks!!!

  12. Dorothy August 2, 2022 at 7:54 am #

    Social work cannot be full time remote working due to the nature and complexity of families in need of support and protecting children.

    It is important to mention that most social workers, balance the working week with splitting the week between remote and in person for 2/3 days of the week.

    It provides a balance between focused office work and home visits, more effective time management which leads to better results.

    This does appear to be a dictatorship position by OFSTED, whilst there is a current focus once again on agency staff, who if pulled from every LA, the system would crash because they are the infrastructure whether you accept it or not.

    On the issue of recruitment and retention I question why the focus is not on finding out why, when the answer is plainly obvious……

    Placing blame on professionals is punitive, look at the system and question why it’s not working as it should and could be.

    I could give the answer but you hear it repeatedly and often and clearly choose not to listen.

    OFSTED promote Archaic SW, it’s part of the problem and definitely not the solution.

  13. Beth August 2, 2022 at 6:26 pm #

    Remote working works for me, it has given me a better work/life balance, as I don’t have to do to do the long commute into the office everyday and this is a saving with rising fuel costs. Therefore I am not so stressed out, I start work on time & finish on time as I am not held up in traffic or searching for a parking space when I reach my destination. Therefore this is better for my own personal well being. At home I have my own designated desk, which I don’t have in the office as I have to book this out in advance and there is no guarantee I would actually get a desk as the office space is shared with health colleagues. I don’t have time to faff around with office bookings when I am so busy. At home I have my own office chair which is comfortable for my posture, the chairs in the office are a poor quality as is the IT. At home, I don’t have to contend with endless dirty coffee cups left on desks by other hotdesking co-workers & I refuse to work in an unhygienic environment. Especially in light of the covid pandemic where germs can be spread easily, and just to highlight this point I nearly lost a family member to covid in the pandemic. At home, I am more productive as I am not distracted by people coming in and out of the office and I can focus on my court reports/assessments with much better clarity. Microsoft teams has been fantastic in co-ordinating multi disciplinary meetings with colleagues, peer support, team meetings etc. Therefore it is a better way of working as it has cut down on the unnecessary time travelling to meetings and means more meetings can be co-ordinated in one day, and less travel is also better for the environment and also the wear and tear of my own car. From home I co-ordinate face to face visits with clients and families. I don’t feel isolated with the improvements in technology I am more connected than ever. I totally get that this way of working does not suit everyone but it works for me.

    • Clare B August 5, 2022 at 9:04 am #

      Completely agree. Remote working doesn’t mean that we don’t see our families face to face at home or in the office.

    • Satvinder Chatha August 5, 2022 at 10:34 am #

      Agree with all you have said Beth. The pandemic has forced us to use technology which we may not have done for decades otherwise. We can and are striking a good balance between working from home and having face to face meetings and home visits where its going to benefit the service users. Using the technology we have has enabled us to work more efficiently and also help our environment by not making that unnecessary journey to the office which is going to achieve nothing but waste your time and pollute the environment. Lets work smartly and get the best outcomes for our service users.

  14. Slogger August 3, 2022 at 10:43 am #

    And what happens if the people you co-ordinate face to face meetings with want to meet you at your office because it’s convenient for them after they have dropped off at school and before they do their messages? Do you politely tell them it’s better for the environment and the wear and tear of your car if they face to face you where it’s most convenient for you? This is exactly the argument my manager makes for not setting foot in our dirty, unhygienic, hot, cold, overcrowded, communal toilet sharing office for the past 7 months. Mind we have supervision more regularly now. It’s a real joy listening to washing machine noises, dashes to answer the door for deliveries, “forgive the mess” faux embarrassment chuckles and the pinging of the microwave. But it works for her so there is that.

  15. Nicola August 4, 2022 at 9:26 am #

    Not sure what the fuss is about. We spend most of our time sitting in front of a screen rarely venturing out of our offices so doing the same from our homes is hardly that different.

  16. Tom Hughes August 5, 2022 at 8:53 am #

    The reason for “desk based” social work is because of too many daft desk based tasks that exist as part of a statutory duty. Ofsted mainly look at IT systems and case files when they audit, so naturally if those are not up to scratch, criticism and poor ratings follow.

    Remote working saves incredible amounts of time. Just yesterday I had 2 CLA reviews held in person. The meetings were maybe 1.5 hours each. In the pure remote era that was 3 hours time. Adding in the commute to the location and back that’s 8 hours in total! 1 whole working days worth on two meetings!

  17. Roslyn August 5, 2022 at 9:10 am #

    If it works for you, work from home. If it doesn’t, go to the office. We now have a choice again. What we should focus on is the quality of work not where we do it. Working from home doesn’t mean that you don’t see service users as and when you need to. If they want to meet in the office, then it can be arranged. Outcomes for people is what our work is about – measure that!

    Can we also remember that there are other areas of social work apart from Children’s!

  18. Lily August 5, 2022 at 9:17 am #

    Working from home has not in anyway impacted on the quality of my work or time with vulnerable children and their families as the home visits are mandatory and are not currently being undertaken virtually. Ofsted please note office working has resulted in me ending up with two rounds of Covid infections which by the way my family had to suffer for. I suppose the social workers and safety of their own families does not count?

  19. Soirse August 5, 2022 at 9:31 am #

    In the spirit of looking at “new ways of working” how about we actually spend our time seeing people rather than endlessly inputing data to ‘show’ what “our” service is doing to meet whatever this weeks target for ‘evidence’ is. This might be laughably naive and totally unworkable, and the reason why I am not a manager, but just a thought.

    • Citizen Smith August 5, 2022 at 1:56 pm #

      Totally agree Siorse,
      We are just glorified admin at the moment ,rush ,rush,rush .Just processing stuff and waiting for another tragedy to happen .
      Then Social Work will get a mention.

  20. CaptainFog August 5, 2022 at 9:53 am #

    Remote working and thinking more creatively about how to use this and other technology is arguably one way to encourage more people in to social work and retain experienced social workers. I bet that Ofsted inspectors routinely work from home! My own view is that seeing children and families in their homes is vitally important – but the idea that there is benefit in filling out a form or writing a report in an office rather than at home is frankly laughable. Do I have confidence in Ofsted – no. They get so much wrong that I think their attention should be on themselves rather than distract from their own shortcomings by criticising others.

  21. Lily August 5, 2022 at 9:58 am #

    Working from home has not in anyway impacted on the quality of my work or time with vulnerable children and their families as the home visits are mandatory and are not currently being undertaken virtually. Ofsted please note office working has resulted in me ending up with two rounds of Covid infections which by the way my family had to suffer for. I suppose the social workers and safety of their own families does not count?

    • Jo Sinden August 5, 2022 at 12:28 pm #

      If only nurses in A&E had caught on to this working from home lark.

      • Sheila August 5, 2022 at 4:08 pm #

        Jo, I suppose it is all about career choices!

        • Jo Sinden August 5, 2022 at 6:04 pm #

          Well I didn’t choose to become a home worker. As many have said much more eloquently than I ever could, it’s called social work for a reason.

          • Shaun August 5, 2022 at 6:40 pm #

            Completing paperwork etc from an office does not define social work. Quite a number of social workers have expressed that they have become more productive in their social work roles and conduct face to face meetings/home visits as part of the good work social workers undertake. The majority have expressed having a better work/life balance from remote working which in my view is not a ‘home worker’ role!

          • Sheila August 5, 2022 at 6:42 pm #

            Feel free to go into the office 7 days a week if you prefer Jo but your comment about A&E nurses is not relevant to this post or comment as far as I am concerned! As social workers we carry out home visits regardless of where we are based, visits to ensure children are safeguarded. Sitting in an office to complete admin work which I can complete from home is not my preference particularly with viruses still looming about.

  22. Sabine August 5, 2022 at 10:21 am #

    Retention by sorting out better work-life balance has never been a priority in socialwork. Afterall, we are a Caring profession with the stress on caring, taking things on the chin, not complaining and working ourselves into a burn-out situation.
    It sadly needed something like covid, which is actually not over yet, to make people stop and think about their priorities and wishes, the risk they are taking every day.
    Offstet will always have sommet to criticise.
    Colleagues should join a union and get involved and stand up for what they believe in.
    If we cannot look after ourselves, how are then able to to work with children and families who may need our input, but may not want it.

  23. Michelle August 5, 2022 at 10:29 am #

    Confused as to how Ofsted doesn’t recall the crowded and noisy hot desking offices they used to visit pre-pandemic, where social workers would struggle to write up an assessment uninterrupted and where there was limited opportunity for private conversations about wellbeing (in my LA you had to really fight for a room booking as they were like gold dust!). Obviously no one is saying that 100% remote working is suitable for frontline practitioners – but being able to do my paperwork from home with fewer distractions/interruptions/noise has massively increased my productivity and wellbeing. It has also reduced the vicarious trauma I would experience from overhearing some really distressing situations in the office. I do not mind having supervision sessions or attending training over Teams – don’t find it any different from being in a room at the office, really. Given the non-existent pay rises and the massive rise in the cost of living, (a level of) remote working is a saving grace.

  24. S. Worker August 5, 2022 at 10:33 am #

    Again, social work employers are complaining about being unable to retain staff, having to use teams of agency workers, and people leaving the profession. And yet, local authorities could consider providing part-time, job-share, flexible social work roles in order that those with additional caring commitments, disabilities, neurodiversity, can return or stay in the profession they love. Local authorities consistently prefer rigidly full-time teams who are easier to manage and allocate caseloads, but this needs to be reconsidered if we are facing a retention crisis. Part-time staff have no less of a commitment to the role, and in many incidences will be keen to work conventionally rather than being “desk-based” at home.

    • The Scouse Social Worker August 5, 2022 at 1:36 pm #

      I totally agree, you’d have to be a social worker living on another planet or under a rock, not to notice there’s a massive retention and recruitment crisis in social work.

      The impact this is having on staff wellbeing is massive and is getting worse.

      Local Authority and NHS managers are culpable for their rigid and inflexible recruitment policies.

      The statistics are only moving in one direction:

      https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2022/06/09/employers-failing-to-advertise-part-time-social-work-roles-finds-study/

      And unless serious changes that support part time/flexible working are made, many social workers like me will be lost to the profession forever.

  25. Chris B August 5, 2022 at 12:00 pm #

    So, if I speak to a child or family via phone or email, the quality of these interactions is better if I am sat in an office rather than my perfectly adequate space at home? I think this is very presumptuous in that remote working means less face to face contact. I do all my visits and meetings in person, but I mostly complete my records and reports at home. So from Ofsted’s perspective the quality of my face to face practice with children and families is reduced because I complete my recording at home? If I need to be at the office for a child, family or otherwise, I am there. Whether I work from home or the office, it has absolutely no bearing on the quality of my practice. To be honest I find my work has improved and I am much more productive with my time and my own work life balance is far better.

  26. Craig August 5, 2022 at 12:31 pm #

    Was a time when social workers were evangelical about team working.

  27. Neanie August 5, 2022 at 2:40 pm #

    It’s so sad yet again to see the pendulum response from Ofsted. As Social Workers we balance strengths with risks, looking at the evidence-based to support our analysis and recommendations so why can’t our regulator do the same?

    The Government has been cutting costs leading to “efficiency savings” having to be made by Local Authorities for years. One of the cost cutting exercises has been desks which in any of the LAs I have worked have been replaced by ‘Hot Desks’. There is also a “clear desk policy” that goes along with these ‘Hot Desking’ arrangements which mean that there is no personalisation and unless you want to start work early every day in order to get the same desk the likelihood is that you will be moving around wherever there is space (if there is any left of course), otherwise you might be hopping back into your car to work from home!

    I was lucky to have started my career in Social Work when there were desks and teams that sat together and this provided me with support, safety, and a wealth of experience and knowledge around me to learn from. Social Workers don’t have that now and this is a massive issue as this learning environment simply no longer exists!

    Technology absolutely can assist us in our work, it opens up the ability to communicate and connect with the children, young people, adults and families that we work with outside of face to face visits. It can be used very successfully for meetings where there is no need to observe and assess. It is about balancing the use of technology where it is successful and achieves positive results and using face to face observation, assessment and intervention alongside it. It does not have to be a one or the other option.

    My opinion is that Social Work Teams should have an office base, with assigned desks that they can personalise and make a safe space where they can process and contain the secondary trauma that they are exposed to on a daily basis. However, there should remain the ability to work from home too and this decision should be made between the Social Worker and their manager.

    A review of decisions to freeze pay increments, make no changes to the mileage allowance which in reality means Social Workers are taking a pay cut whilst the cost of living rises needs to happen alongside the provision of good quality office space (NOT HOTDESKING), and the ability to park you car to promote office working.

    Come on Ofsted, be part of the solution don’t just add to the problem!!!

  28. Lindsey August 5, 2022 at 4:00 pm #

    That most of the respondents here promote home working as a positive because it allows for better report writing says everything about what contemporary social work has become. Just yesterday I comforted a colleague who was distressed, made her a cup of tea and sat with her while she cried and allowed herself to be upset. I am not sure I was particularly supportive but she appreciated not being alone. What we do is called social work for a reason. Atomised practice geared towards report writing as the benchmark is nothing more than meeting targets in a call centre. Talking, sharing laughing crying, risk managing and the occasional gossip about the head of service may not make me a better person let alone a better social worker but it certainly keeps the creeping alienation slightly at bay. It used to be called team working. Thank you Craig.

  29. Elizabeth August 5, 2022 at 4:25 pm #

    When first started SW in 1995 with an Adult Team, I had to undertake reviews in care homes across the country. Rather than return to the office, was given a lap top and asked to write up my reports at home. Sometimes the work saw me only going to the office every 3 weeks. Out team manager was very conscious that we sometimes needed a change of environment, so encouraged all of the team to undertake reviews (which could vary from south coast to Lancashire etc) and write up at home. She felt that this gave us a better work/life balance.

    A SW friend recently retired, commented that during covid she worked from home and found that despite weekly meetings on Team, she felt isolated from her colleagues, not able to bounce ideas/problems and began to loose faith in her judgments. These feelings made her decide to take early retirement.

  30. Advanced SW Bevie August 5, 2022 at 8:21 pm #

    We already were remote from families prior to Covid 19 lockdowns due to the bureaucracy that keeps us away from relationship based practice.

  31. Dawn August 5, 2022 at 10:40 pm #

    Lots of valid points and I’m sure some are reflective of whether your employed as an agency worker or permanent. I have been both although I have been an agency workier for the past 12 years or a twenty year career. Pre pandemic I have driven 100
    Miles one way to carry out my job and was well thought of and the time I spent in other towns taught me a lot about different communities and contributed to my knowledge base. It also raised my stress levels when arriving at hot desking offices to find out there was no desk and no parking space. Working hours wasted in my opinion. Post pandemic (although the idea that covid has gone is beyond me) is just government rhetoric and like many above I don’t want to sit in overcrowded offices with no ventilation and complacency amongst its occupants and if I can avoid it I will. Throughout lockdowns I visited my families in person and had face to face meetings at the office if required . Meetings via teams and conference calls don’t always work and the ones that don’t are done in person. It’s no sweat to do this but hybrid working fixes to some extent a work life balance that was non existent before covid and personally I’m happier than I have ever been and a lot less stressed as I plan my week to maximise my productivity. Running from one meeting to the next and one visit to the next and squeezing in office time in between left me exhausted and contemplating my exit from the job. Yes newly qualified workers need support hence APs and team managers and many other things like shadowing and joint case working . It’s all still being done and more . Ofsted don’t know what they are talking about – there will always be the ones who do the commute to the office 5 days a week even when they dont need to then moan that others work at home – my answer to them is to get a life. If hybrid working is scrapped I will retire early and leave the profession – build back better and not return to archaic ways of working . Incidentally no one minded the social worker working from home to write reports that didn’t get done in office time – conveniently forgot this was okay then.

  32. Passionate SW August 6, 2022 at 7:57 am #

    Remote working is good for SWs, no more waste of time driving to schools for meetings, driving to the office to sit down and type in a noisy over crowded offices. Being stuck in traffic daily, no compensation for the wear and tear of my car. In other countries govt. provides cars for SW’ s to do the job. Ofsted never raises concerns for the wellbeing of SWs.
    SWs visited families during covid pandemic and we never stopped visiting. SWs conduct face to face meetings where it is felt it will benefit service users. SWs can make good judgement of this.
    What I hear from my colleagues they are more productive and less stressed. As a team we meet in the office once a week to boost and mantain morale.
    Are MP’s and Ofsted thinking about eradicating agency workers for nurses and doctors too? Why only We need to stand up for ourselves and not leave the profession we are passionate about.

  33. EC August 6, 2022 at 2:38 pm #

    Lockdown made social workers remember they are also human beings, with family and friends who they want to spend time with. What Ofsted is actually seeing is social workers taking back some control of their lives. Implementing work life balance. The peer support has not stopped and with the new technology we are all using it is far easier now to get in touch with colleagues when you need to.
    As for the experienced staff leaving the profession, yes they are before they have to be wheeled out on a stretcher because they have collapsed from the excessive stress and pressure put on them.
    Ofsted raised about staff living in rural areas and holding posts in London. Their concern is that the staff will lack knowledge of the area an not understand the community. I wonder do they have the same concern about the numerous directors from rural areas who are leading inner city diverse councils??
    Ofsted themselves have been working remotely for years, so does not the same concerns they are raising about social workers remote working also apply to them?

  34. Chris Sterry August 6, 2022 at 4:09 pm #

    Yet another issue affecting Social workers on top of all the others.

    Yes, remote working could be a major issue, as if other measures are not implemented for supervision then this could be problematic for all social workers be they experienced or not. Then would supervision be done remotely also.

    But, surely ‘hot desking’ was just as problematic, but maybe for other reasons.

    No matter what none of this solves the burdens of work, for social workers are still very seriously over worked, which lack of supervision could easily add more problems to.

    Supervision is essential for it is an opportunity for social workers to raise any issues they have, but then will they be listened to, especially in the current climate of lack of finance for social care.

    The working loads, the work pressures, lack of supervision and maybe more so, lack of consulting their peers and others all adds to the stresses of social work and could well affect the quality. That in turn would cause problems for those who the social workers have in their caseload, so problems for everyone all round, with a Government not listening, the ‘elephant’ in the room, whom no one wishes to mention, but are behind the finance problems.

    For someone who is a carer of someone in a social workers caseload, many problems do occur, of which communication is a major issue. As, with working from home there is no central point to find answers on a social workers availability, so if phone calls and emails don’t produce communications when needed that creates another failure of the system.

    A system which is seriously underfunded, serious lack of social workers availability due to insufficiencies of social workers and over work burdens, causing ‘burnout’ leading to essential time off, thereby either increasing workload for the social workers left, or issues not being dealt with, or maybe now being temporarily being looked after an agency social worker, who needs not only to understand the system the local authority uses but getting to know person requiring a social worker, when sufficient time may not be available, leading to disconnect and maybe errors creating even more problems.

    The ‘elephant’ needs to be dealt with, but when Government is not listening the problems get worse, which is why there are these serious problems today, due to not only this Government not listening, but every previous government. But, the blame is never placed at the Government, but on the social worker and maybe, eventually the Local Authority.

    So, everyone suffers, except the Government who should be made to shoulder the blame.

  35. John August 7, 2022 at 9:12 am #

    So ofsted can highlight problems (in their opinion) but no solutions that will really impact

    Remove or limit hybrid working or WFH and more experienced staff members will leave, thereafter exacerbating the recruitment and retention issues

    Yes it must be hard for new staff, I completely get that, but to expect most of their training to come from experienced staff only highlights poor management, poor structures within the LA and a lack of useful training and development

    • Jim August 8, 2022 at 8:58 am #

      So your solution that newly qualified staff should just get on with it because our development has nothing to do with you. Nobody “expects” you to do the job of a manager, we just want colleagues to share their knowledge and guide us when we are struggling. As our peers. Maybe one day I’ll have the priviliege of saying nothing to do with me guv.

  36. Kate August 8, 2022 at 8:48 am #

    It’s hardly surprising that a profession which has stripped social workers of autonomy, reflection and contemplation sees practitioners embracing of individualism. The powerless and the bureaucracy burdened social worker will naturally seek to create their own little homestead for that fleeting moment of being in control. It’s easier than acknowledging the reality that their supposed safe space actually is another confirmation that they are a cog in a bureaucracy that welcomes separating as a means of crushing any sense of solidarity and mutual support. And those of you sneering at nurses, I was one. Why did I become a social worker? I believed it was about getting to practice with like minded liberty driven colleagues in a team. I believed it would offer me the chance to work in a more understated but mutually affirming way. I was wrong.

  37. Immi August 9, 2022 at 7:41 pm #

    We are not sneering at nurses. Some of us are just fed up with nurses being shoved down the throat of the nation as being the epitome of selfless sacrifice. Arguably social work is a more complex role than the the tasks carried out by most nurses not working on intensive care wards. The pressures on A&E nurses are immense but are they really more so than those child protection?

    • Kate August 10, 2022 at 8:17 am #

      Apologies I was wrong. It’s envy. Thank you for making my point though.

Leave a Reply