Bureaucracy ‘hampers social workers’, survey says

Nearly two-thirds of social workers in England say they do not have enough time to serve children and young people properly, an Ofsted survey has found.

The most commonly cited reasons were the demands of paperwork and entering information into computers, closely followed by work volume.

The study of 4,141 social workers was the first such survey by Ofsted, which regulates young people’s services.

However, two-thirds of social workers said they had sufficient training.

Concerns have been raised over increasing caseloads in the wake of the death of Baby Peter, blamed partly on a rise in referrals.

There have also been suggestions that a push to tighten up child protection procedures has resulted in increased bureaucracy, making it harder for social workers to spend time face-to-face with children and families.

In June, the coalition government ordered an independent review of child protection and social work in England.

Prof Eileen Munro, from the London School of Economics, is to examine ways of cutting bureaucracy to give social workers more time with children.

‘Worrying findings’

More than half the social workers surveyed by Ofsted said they disagreed that there were enough “suitably qualified and experienced staff to meet the needs of children and young people on their team’s workload”.

Only a fifth said they had “sufficient time to work effectively” with the young people on their own case load.

Of 64% who disagreed, 56% cited the volume of paperwork as a reason, 55% blamed the amount of time spent recording data electronically, and 52% said their workload was simply to large.

In addition, only half of social workers surveyed said they felt informed about issues arising from local serious case reviews or that they are made fully aware of changes to policies and procedures.

Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert said: “In often very challenging situations, most social workers feel well supported by their line managers and by the training available to them.”

But she said there were also “some worrying findings”, including “the extent to which front-line staff feel involved and informed about the lessons to be learned from serious case reviews in their area”.

Serious case reviews are conducted whenever a child died and abuse or neglect is known or suspected to be a factor.

The coalition government has decided to publish them in full – only summaries have been made public in the past.

The first was published on Tuesday, regarding Khyra Ishaq, a seven-year-old who was starved to death in Birmingham in 2008.

The Serious Case Review into her death found there were a catalogue of missed opportunities by professional agencies.

It also said better assessments and more effective communication could have stopped her death.