Social Work Recap is a weekly series where we present key news, events, conversations, tweets and campaigns around social work from the preceding week.
From evidence of a multi-billion funding shortfall and failing complaints system in adult social care to a podcast episode exploring the impact of the government’s strategy for children’s social care reform, here’s this week’s line-up:
Care providers tell minister to address multi-billion funding shortfall
An alliance of care providers has written an open letter to care minister Helen Whately urging her to address a “shortfall of billions of pounds” in adult social care funding, which it claims has been revealed by its analysis of council exercises to determine the costs of care.
The Care Provider Alliance’s analysis of councils’ fair cost of care reports suggested there was a £2.88bn shortfall in funding for care home services for older people and home care provision for all adults in 2021-22. But the alliance claimed the gap will have widened since because of the impact of inflation on providers’ costs.
It said the “deeply disappointing” findings showed the care market was in an “untenable operating position” and urged Whately to “acknowledge the findings and invest in social care”.
Council to keep control of children’s services
Herefordshire council is to keep control of its children’s services for now but has been given six months to make significant improvements by the Department for Education (DfE).
A report by DfE-appointed commissioner Eleanor Brazil concluded that, despite the authority facing major challenges, transferring its services to an alternative provider could be a “major distraction” from the need for it to make urgent improvements.
The department has accepted her recommendations for the council to retain the support of a commissioner and a separate DfE-appointed improvement adviser and attempt to make progress on areas including reducing its high use of agency staff and the number of changes of social worker children face. Over the longer-term, it should form a partnership with a high-performing council to support its ongoing improvement, Brazil recommended.
However, the department has held open the prospect of removing Herefordshire’s services should it not improve sufficiently over the next six months, in a revised statutory direction to the council. Herefordshire has welcomed Brazil’s report and said it fully accepted the DfE’s decision.
Home Office ends funding scheme for councils taking in asylum-seeking children
Councils will no longer receive additional payments to take in unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from hotels.
The Home Office has ended a scheme that gave local authorities £15,000 for each child they took in, saying that it was now “evaluating the pilot”. The scheme ran from 16 December 2022 until 28 February 2023 and was preceded by one providing councils with a £6,000 payment split over three months.
Councils will still receive the funding of £143 per night per child given to any authority taking in an unaccompanied young person through the Home Office’s national transfer scheme (NTS).
You can learn more about the scheme by reading our article on it ending.
Systems for challenging adult social care decisions failing – watchdog
The system in place for challenging adult social care decisions is failing service users, a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found.
It said that “unclear, complex and energy-sapping” complaints processes, inaccessible information and a lack of advocacy were undermining people’s ability to challenge local authority decisions.
Despite set limits for complaints processes, the EHRC also found that complaints sometimes took a long time to resolve, with examples of them taking up to two years.
You can read more about the findings in our article.
BBC Sounds: how the voices of disabled people can shape social care
Anna Severwright, the convener of social care movement #socialcarefuture, has spoken out about her experience as a disabled person and what is needed to create a “fit for purpose” adult social care system.
During an interview with BBC Radio, Severwright touched on the misconceptions around social care, people’s difficulty in accessing care due to budget cuts, and the importance of “thinking differently” when creating care plans.
“The system at the moment is in firefighting mode, it’s trying to keep people safe with the bare minimum,” she said.
You can listen to her full interview here.
Four questions every frontline social worker must ask themselves
Social worker Richard Devine has written an in-depth blog post on why reconsidering how social work is evaluated and how case outcomes are measured can improve social work practice.
Drawing on a recent case and professor Donald Forrester’s 2017 paper, ‘Outcomes in Children’s Social Care’, Devine explores social workers’ role, and the ethical challenges they face, in working with children and families.
He identifies and breaks down four key questions for frontline practitioners to ask themselves:
- What is the quality of my practice?
- Is my involvement with this family necessary and proportionate?
- Am I being helpful to the parents and children?
- What difference is being made to their specific problems?
The family justice system through children’s eyes
Cafcass’ family justice young people’s board has published a book capturing the first-hand experiences of children and young people involved with the family courts.
The book, made up of diverse first-person testimonies from children and young people, is described as “a unique learning and reflection opportunity” for professionals working in the family justice system.
You can read about the young people’s experiences for free here.
Proposals to solve social work’s workforce challenges
Social work professor Martin Webber has urged the chief social workers for children and adults to set up a task force of ministers, civil servants and sector leaders to address the profession’s increasing recruitment and retention challenges.
In a blog post, Webber also made specific proposals to tackle the issues.
For recruitment, he proposed enhancing bursaries and pay, increasing resources to support practice placements and enable practitioners to train as practice educators, and carrying out a public information campaign to address social work’s image.
To improve retention, he called for better working conditions for staff, relationship-based supervision, fewer bureaucratic processes that “tie practitioners to their computer” and a ban on social work agencies.
Must Listen: is DfE social care strategy built on air?
In the latest episode of its podcast series, ‘Let’s Talk Social Work’, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) examines the government’s strategy for children’s social care reform.
BASW England professional officer Rebekah Pierre, social work lecturer Joe Hanley and the head of policy and public affairs at Kinship, Sam Turner, discussed what this strategy meant for social workers and children and young people in care.
You can listen to the full episode here.
Tweet of the week
Agency social work has gone far beyond service-oriented ‘filling gaps’ to a growth industry built on encouraging SWers to trade off their employment benefits for greater pay & flexibility.
That’s bad for social work, the people we hope and aim to support and for wider society.
— Christian Kerr (@SWConcern) February 27, 2023
Social work lecturer Christian Kerr has spoken out about the affects of agency social work and “insecure contracts” on the sector and the people social workers support in a Twitter thread.
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