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Social Work Task Force Report

February 19, 2010

Better late than never I’ve finally managed to read the report of the Social Work Task Force. A 71 page report but only 50 of those pages are substance, the other 21 are introductory pages and annexes. Actually it is quite easy reading, perhaps too easy. Like a nice raspberry jelly it slips down easily but lacks texture and nourishment.

One pip got caught between my teeth and that is about workloads (p29 – 32). The Task Force noticed that caseloads are often too high but they are at a loss how to deal with this except by “better” management. They think that caseloads cannot be limited through caseload management systems which they term “mechanistic” and prefer the “skills and awareness of line managers” to control caseloads and commend “good managers” who run “informal systems”.

Well, that is exactly what we have currently and is exactly the system which has failed to protect social workers from excessive caseloads. Many years ago I worked in an authority in which a caseload management system was implemented. It addressed all the issues the Task Force think such systems do not or cannot address, was accepted throughout the authority and was much appreciated by social workers and their supervisors. It made sure the allocated clients got a satisfactory service and that the social workers and supervisors were able to sleep at night.

While the suggestions of the Task Force about better training, probationary period, college of social work etc are all very nice the quality of practice and the retention of staff cannot be improved without dealing with caseloads. Just saying that employers should ensure that workloads are manageable is not good enough. Of course they should. The fact is that many employers massively overload their social workers and have been doing so for years. See for instance this report about Cheshire East council who thing bigger caseloads are “more efficient”.  Task Force recommendation are not going to stop that sort of mindlessness.

Fail to get workloads under control and all the other recommendations of the Task Force are as for nothing.

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