Social workers overloaded with paperwork, warn of risks to children

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Social care workers have warned that vulnerable children are being put at risk as cuts to services have left them 'drowning' in paperwork and acting as receptionists.

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A survey of 1,100 social workers by The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) revealed that 88 per cent fear that vulnerable lives are being put at risk by cuts to services.

More than 80 per cent of social workers said they had seen notable cuts to services in the last 12 months and 77 per cent claimed they were concerned about unmanageable caseloads.

A comment from one social worker said, ‘Staff are not being replaced. We are running a service on three full time staff and three part time – it used to be six full ime staff. Our caseload has doubled and I fear things will be worse.’

Another said, ‘The team I work in currently is working at dangerous caseload levels in terms of child protection work.’

Respondents of the State of Social Work survey also spoke of how cuts to back office staff meant they now spend even more time doing administration than before, despite acceptance that they needed more help in the wake of the Baby P tragedy nearly five years ago.

Some also reported having to clean toilets, buy their own stamps and clean their own offices.

Despite this, 46 per cent said they were afraid to speak about conditions for fear of repercussions.

One social worker said, ‘I’ve raised all my concerns and now I’ve been asked to attend an investigation interview. I feel like I’m being punished for speaking up.’

In light of the survey findings, the BASW has written to the Secretary of State Michael Gove to emphasis concerns over the state of social work. It is also urging the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Social Work to hold an urgent inquiry into the risks to vulnerable children and adults of an overstretched social work service.

As well as this, the Association is calling on the Government and local authorities to take three steps:

  • introduce immediate measures to reallocate local authority administrative staff from less critical roles;

  • put a delay on any further cuts to social work allowances or the introduction of any new charges, which are savagely undermining morale;

  • ensure that Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission prioritise in all inspections the risks of high caseloads and take steps to uncover bullying.


Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said, ‘The survey statistics are damning, and the hundreds of comments we have had from social workers are deeply alarming. The Government pledged in 2010 to protect frontline social workers, yet by axing support staff they have turned social workers into glorified typists.

He added, ‘Social workers are facing an administrative overload and as a result, are spending less and less time with vulnerable children and adults. Caseloads are quite simply unmanageable, posing imminent and serious risks to the people who need services, and the stresses on service providers, from the very top to the bottom, are creating an endemic culture of bullying, driving morale levels through the floor.

‘Social work services were never beneficiaries of investment in the way other areas of public service were during the so called ‘boom years’, yet now they find themselves facing cuts every bit as deep as those in other sectors. We didn’t have the good times, and now we’re facing even worse times. We simply cannot go on like this.’



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