Election 2019: Parties told to tackle 'unfeasibly high' social work caseloads

Social workers have called on parties competing to form the next government to commit to reducing “unfeasibly high workloads”.

Social workers have called on the new government to reduce high workloads. Picture: Adobe Stock
Social workers have called on the new government to reduce high workloads. Picture: Adobe Stock

A manifesto published by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) calls for parliamentary candidates from all parties to pledge their support for social workers and the children, adults and families who use their services.

It highlights "poor working conditions and unfeasibly high workloads" as one of its priority areas for action from the next government - stating that high case and administrative loads are a "major source of stress".

"The quality of support to children and adults depends on providing social workers with the right conditions," the manifesto states.

It points out that, compared to the UK average, working conditions for social workers were worse than 90 to 95 per cent of other employees in both public and private sector occupations.

The BASW said social workers work an average of 64 days per year more than they are contracted to, an average of 11 extra hours a week.

Government statistics show that the average caseload for children's social workers in 2018 was 17.4. 

The figure is down slightly from the 17.8 in 2017, but still significantly up on the 16.1 average recorded in 2016 – the first time the data was collected.

Concerns have consistently been raised in recent years by organisations in the sector, including Ofsted, that high social work caseloads can result in children not getting the protection they need.

The issue has also been linked with an increased likelihood of children being re-referred to child protection services.

BASW’s manifesto also calls on parties to invest in social work recruitment, education, professional development, and retention initiatives.

It pointed out that according to research it conducted last year alongside the Social Worker’s Union with Bath Spa University, 60 per cent of social workers were looking to leave their current job within 15 months.

Other manifesto pledges BASW is urging parties to adopt, include:

  • Boosting the role of social workers in multi-disciplinary teams
  • Supporting and investing in relationship-based practice, allowing social workers more face-to-face time with children and families
  • Ending austerity in public services by investing in social care and reforming Universal Credit

The general election is due to take place on 12 December, with a number of high-profile pledges relating to children and young people already being made.

Labour has pledged to open 1,000 more children’s centres and also wants to abolish education and social care inspectorate Ofsted, replacing it with a new inspection regime.

Meanwhile, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to boost childcare support

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