Councils have been urged to join a project to help curb the workloads of social workers in local authority children’s services departments.
Fifteen authorities will scrutinise and test ideas and resources to tackle unnecessary burdens on practitioners in order to enable them to spend more time with children and families.
The so-called review testing and implementation network (RTIN) will work alongside the national workload action group (NWAG), which the Department for Education (DfE) has set up as part of its children’s social care reforms.
The NWAG’s remit is to “streamline and reduce unnecessary regulatory, central government and local level workload drivers” and consider “effective and efficient case recording and recording of the child’s voice”.
The evidence on children’s social worker workloads
The DfE’s measure of caseloads for local authority social workers in England has remained stable at between 16 and 17 from 2019-22.
There has been a similar level of stability in the amount of unpaid overtime children’s social workers work – about six hours a week – over this time, according to successive waves of the DfE-commissioned longitudinal survey.
However, the survey, which has tracked the attitudes of a group of council children’s social workers since 2018, has found a deteriorating picture on practitioners’ experience of their workload.
Notably, 63% of practitioners said their overall workload was too high in wave 5 of the research (carried out in autumn 2022), compared with 51% in wave 1 (November 2018 to March 2019).
Process for joining workloads project
The NWAG is being supported by a consortium comprising Research in Practice, Essex County Council and King’s College London.
Research in Practice is calling on authorities to express an interest in joining the RTIN, and is looking for participants from a diversity of regions and with a mix of Ofsted ratings (outstanding, good or requires improvement).
Chosen authorities will assess and test the resources through online group sessions and by providing feedback, also online. Each authority will receive £7,000 to cover costs.
Essex County Council will co-ordinate the RTIN, whose work will run from January 2024 to March 2025.
The finalised resources will be published on the DfE’s website.
If you are interested in joining the RTIN, fill in this expression of interest form by 26 January 2024.