A day in the life of a safeguarding team manager

A children's team manager describes a Friday spent juggling meetings and emails while helping an NQSW engage a boy in her first child protection case and another practitioner ensure a young person's safe return home

A team manager talking to practitioners with her back turned to the camera.
Photo by AdobeStock/ rawpixel.com

How does your employer manage excess workloads among social workers?

  • They see excess workloads as part of social work. (55%, 323 Votes)
  • They are sympathetic but don't do enough to change things. (28%, 165 Votes)
  • They are doing their best to reduce workloads within resources. (16%, 96 Votes)

Total Voters: 584

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8.30am: I log on with a cup of tea by my side and read through my emails and notifications.

9.15am: We have a team brief over Microsoft Teams. We talk through the day ahead – what needs prioritising, whether anyone needs any support, who is covering duty, scheduled child visits for the day and any reports due. As it’s Friday, we also discuss our weekend plans. I think the team believes I’m being nosey, but it is my way of checking in on them. I want to ensure they have at least one thing planned for them, to allow some respite from the job. They also seem to enjoy this team ritual and it creates a lovely dynamic.

9.45am: When the team brief ends, I stay on in case anyone has an urgent question for me. This morning a newly qualified, Josie, asks me for advice on her first child protection investigation. She wants to encourage the little boy she supports to speak. So far, whenever she asks him anything, he shuts down and shakes his head.

We talk it through and she comes up with most of the ideas of how to engage him on her own. Following our conversation, she says she feels more confident and proceeds to book a visit with the boy.

Two social workers meeting

Photo: Delmaine Donson/peopleimages.com/Adobe Stock

10am: I chair a strategy meeting. I haven’t had much time to prepare due to my conversation with Josie. However, the family has been known to our team for three months so I know a fair bit about their situation. The meeting is about videos being shared of the children’s dad physically hurting them. The mum also alleges there is domestic abuse. The father lives outside of the family home but he is on the joint tenancy with the mum and continually threatens to return.

11am: The lead social worker and I discuss the outcome of the meeting. Fortunately, the police quickly respond to say they will be arresting the dad and bail conditions will mean he won’t be able to return to the property. The practitioner plans to introduce the mum to domestic abuse charities and support and discuss the possibility of seeking legal advice.

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Her concern now is to promote positive time between the dad and the children, provided the children want this. We agree on seeking their views on how they feel about this and what would help them feel safe.

11.30am: I respond to emails that have arrived throughout the morning. Two are from my manager. The first asks me to review some children’s files with missing information and the second is inquiring about timescales for a case currently in court proceedings. I review both and respond accordingly.

12noon: I take a quick lunch break.

12.30pm: I join a video call with the fostering team. A foster carer has ‘given notice’ due to their young person’s substance misuse and associated aggressive behaviour. The young person’s behaviour is not particularly surprising given his early life experiences. We reflect with the fostering team that his substance misuse is a coping mechanism – he is a vulnerable young man who needs the stability of this home.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to change the foster carer’s mind. We begin to discuss different options. Is he ready for semi-independent living? Could anyone in his family care for him at this time? Are there other foster homes available as an alternative?

Photo: hikrcn/Fotolia

1pm: I leave the call reflective about whether we did enough to support the foster carer and the young person. I’m mindful about everything we hear from children on the impact placement moves have on them. I also wonder how I would react if I was in the foster carer’s position and feel empathy for both them and the child.

I am also running a bit late for a supervision meeting.

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You or your colleague have the option to be anonymous and the entries can feature anyone you work with, including team managers, practice educators and students. You can find more information in our nominations form.

I apologise to the practitioner and we start with her personal supervision. We talk about how her workload feels, what has been the best part of the job this month and what has been the most challenging. I also check in on practical points like whether she has booked annual leave and when. Like others in my team, she tells me she hasn’t booked anything because her diary feels so busy. We reflect on how important it is that she takes a break. We then move on to case supervision.

3pm: A social worker rings me to say one of her young people has been kicked out by his mum. This has happened before because of the pair’s tumultuous relationship. We talk through what happened last time – what helped and what didn’t. We decide that she needs to visit the mum and talk things through without the son there. We ask another colleague to take the young person for a walk and a snack.

3.10pm: Another social worker rings to say the family she has tried to visit for the last three days continues not to answer the door. She is convinced they are inside as the lights are on. There are concerns around neglectful home conditions so getting into the home is crucial. I suggest she calls the parents from outside the property to query where they are and to speak with the children’s school about whether it is possible to visit them during school time. We need to make this as unintrusive as possible, and the social worker confirms the pastoral lead at school will help plan around the children’s day.

3.25pm: I start to tidy up the notes of my supervision earlier and add them to the system.

Photo: tumsasedgars/fotolia

4pm: I attend an ‘allocations’ meeting, where we look at new referrals. There is some frustration as a few case files are missing various documents. I always find these meetings strange as we know so little about the children and their families, yet we need to decide who could best work with them. Usually, our decisions are based on which workers have capacity, but I try to also consider their career goals and areas of interest. For example, today I allocate a pre-birth assessment to a newly qualified practitioner who’s been wanting to work with an expectant mum.

4.45pm: I speak again to the social worker who is trying to facilitate the young boy’s return to his home. She has managed to calm the mum down, but she needs to stay for another hour or two to support the son’s return. I thank the practitioner and check whether she is comfortable staying longer. She says she’s fine and agrees to check in with me when she leaves.

5pm: I check the records system and find a conference report that has just reached my inbox but needs signing off and sending to the independent reviewing officer by 9am on Monday. I feel frustrated but reflect on the social worker’s work and realise my frustrations are misplaced. He’s worked until 7pm or 8pm every night to support a child who has newly come into care. This report will have been the last thing on his mind. So I read through it and sign it off.

6pm: I turn off my laptop but leave my phone on.

6.45pm: The social worker who stayed to support the boy’s return to his home rings. She shares her concerns that this arrangement won’t last much longer. She is confident they will be okay for tonight but says the way the mum speaks about the child is worrying. She has come close to hitting him often and is turning to alcohol regularly in response to her frustration and unhappiness. We agree to spend some of our next supervision reflecting specifically on this case.

7.10pm: I turn my phone off. It’s time to take some much needed time off.

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14 Responses to A day in the life of a safeguarding team manager

  1. David February 14, 2024 at 8:58 am #

    Working 8.30am-7.10pm, with 30 mins taken for lunch. Total of 10 hours and 10 mins worked for the day

    Over a five day working week such hours would equate to 50 hours and 50 minutes worked.

    Assuming a 37 hours working week, this would mean working an extra 13 hours and 50 minutes over contracted hours, more than an extra full working day, for which there will be no extra payment

    No wonder Social Workers are leaving in droves, eh? No wonder that Local Authorities have difficulty in recruiting and retaining Social Workers

  2. Here we go again February 14, 2024 at 10:40 am #

    This other problem, as well, where support workers, work twelve-hour shifts, it isn’t right. It would make better sense, for the support workers to start work at 8am, and finish their day shifts at 4pm, and then let the night staff start their night shift at 4pm until 8am. Worked too hard, for very little reward.

  3. David February 14, 2024 at 7:26 pm #

    “….On average, Social Workers give up around ten hours of free working unpaid overtime every week. Not only does this leave us significantly out of pocket and overworked, but it artificially props up a failing system with the belief that we are just about coping…..”. (Social Work News, 24/8/2023).

    Over the years research from a range of organisations (including trade unions. academic institutions, BASW) has demonstrated that Social Workers are overworked and have to work excessive hours without pay. Clearly, this is absolutely unjust and, to be frank, dangerous for the vulnerable individuals to whom we have a duty of care. If you are physically and emotionally exhausted due to overwork you are not going to be as alert as you need to be

    • Sandra February 15, 2024 at 5:39 am #

      Absolutely….the system works because of the goodwill and passion of social workers.
      This is not however recognised leading to social workers being blamed for the lack of organisational skills.

  4. Carmel February 15, 2024 at 9:39 am #

    That all of the contributors highlight the toxicity that forces social workers to do longer hours than contracted for free, says all that needs to be said about the pretence of so called “reflected practice” promoted in the Pollyanna world of SWE and BASW. Not one comment on the decisions being made, clearly on the hoof by necessity, and whether they address the issues, behaviours, parenting, placements being worked with. Abusive dad? Yes but let’s look at positive contact by him with the clearly frightened child. Could be right or the wrong approach but social workers are so near to burn out that the take away from a day in the life is the working hours. I admire my colleagues but I also despair that we’d rather burn out than tackle our managers and employers about how much we are exploited and taken for granted. Do the work, do more of the work, do them again and more the next day and all the days after is the pattern that however empathetic a manager or supervisor might be is left to fester to the detriment of practitioners.

  5. David February 15, 2024 at 11:19 am #

    You’re right, Sandra. Part of the blaming is being subject to the capability process as a way of bullying SWs to do more and more. After twelve years of working as a permanent children’s SW for a Local Authority with no issues whatsoever, this is what happened to me when I began to say enough is enough. I resigned and that particular authority lost an experienced and obviously competent SW

  6. David February 16, 2024 at 3:36 pm #

    Agree it’s not about lack of organisational skills. It’s more to do with far too many tasks to do within unrealistic timescales set by managers. There are not enough bodies on the front line, end of. This also applies to every public service, and Children’s Services managers are fearful about making decisions as to priorities. As you say they exploit Social Workers by relying on goodwill working, to the detriment of Social Workers themselves

  7. Anon February 16, 2024 at 11:22 pm #

    Too many tasks and not not enough time to address these unless you work excessive hours, ie on goodwill basis that is not appreciated

  8. David February 17, 2024 at 6:33 pm #

    Agree totally, Sandra. This leads to Local Authority managers using capability procedures, when the reality is that they do not allow Social Workers sufficient time to do their job effectively. Managers need to reflect on their actions/inactions

  9. Veronica February 17, 2024 at 11:01 pm #

    That is so true. Now working weekends is becoming increasingly more of a norm to get the work done. There is also the name and shame culture, if all vists , core group etc is not all completed in timescale.

  10. David February 18, 2024 at 1:08 pm #

    Too many tasks to complete and insufficient time during contracted hours. Hence SWs are forced to work extrs hours to try to keep on top of things and records up to date. Should you not do this then you do not endear yourself to managers who are under pressure to address targets to satisfy Ofsted

  11. Helen February 23, 2024 at 8:39 am #

    That’s on a good day…. Mine always means, no time for lunch break, often trying to continue a TEAMS call while trying to make a sandwich and eat it off camera if I’m lucky if not grab biscuits. Laptop always on till about 11pm with an hour -2 break to cook tea and if lucky watch corrination street. Start at 7:30-8 am and no day time to write up that’s why computer all evening….

  12. David February 23, 2024 at 6:21 pm #

    Sorry. You should not have to be doing this. Really very, very poor management support. It is not healthy for you and thereby not healthy for those that you are charged with caring for. I have a view that if managers are not able to care for their staff then I question their values regarding their caring ability