Good communication is crucial to effective social work practice

Councillors need to be keep in touch with workloads and working environments. Since November, an awful lot has been said and written about social work.

The Social Work Taskforce was set up in January, and even more recently Lord Laming’s report called for better support for social workers.

So what should local authorities be doing to help their staff?

Very simply, the message from the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is that social workers need to be valued.

The working environment needs to be one where they are regarded as a vital resource.

This would help to boost confidence that is often sapped by heavy workloads and, of course, public criticism.

It would also help counter the ‘blame culture’, that is fostered by some sections of the media.

Examples of good practice in local authorities are where the departments for adult or child services make the effort to meet those delivering frontline services and solicit their views.

We would extend this to council members, particularly those with lead responsibilities for children or social care.

It can make an enormous difference if those leading the organisation keep in touch with those at the sharp end.

Local authorities need to consider what comprises a reasonable caseload.

BASW’s Children and Families Committee recommends that social workers hold eight to nine cases with a maximum of 15.

Managers would still need to measure this against the complexity of the cases.

Equally, social workers must have access to quality supervision.

This needs a focus on professional development and not merely be a performance-management tool.

It is also essential to provide good administrative support.

Administrators are the first port of call for referrals and can also relieve social workers of the timeconsuming task of inputting data.

Social workers need to practise and hone their skills in order to be confident and competent practitioners.

They need to spend sufficient time with service users to build relationships and undertake highquality assessments, which in turn will lead to improved outcomes.

Career prospects need to be attractive and include consultant posts, which allow social workers to operate at a higher level but stay close to practice and be properly remunerated.

We hope that in years to come, social workers will take the above for granted and some of our less favourable working practices will be a distant memory.

* Author: Nushra Mansuri, British Association of Social Workers.