Social workers in more than 50 councils have high caseloads

The average social worker is dealing with between 20 and 30 cases at any time in 57 local authorities across England, a report by the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) has found.

The report, which was produced to inform the future distribution of the Social Work Improvement Fund, found that social workers in five councils were managing an average of between 30 and 40 cases.

In one council, the average caseload was more than 40 cases although social workers in 76 councils were found to be looking after a more manageable 10 to 20 cases and staff in five local authorities had fewer than 10 cases each.

The report also outlines how many unallocated cases are held by social work teams. While 124 local authorities had fewer than 10 unallocated cases, eight had between 10 and 20, five had 20 to 30, two had 30 to 40 and three had 40 to 50. Five local authorities had more than 50 unallocated cases.

As part of the report, local authorities were asked to estimate the percentage of agency social workers they employed. Agency staff made up fewer than 10 per cent of all employees at 106 councils, between 10 and 20 per cent of staff at 22 councils and between 20 and 30 per cent of employees at 10 local authorities. More than 50 per cent of staff were agency workers at four councils.

Councils also told the CWDC how many frontline social work posts were unfilled in their authority. Fewer than 10 per cent of frontline posts were empty in 122 councils, while between 10 and 20 per cent of such posts were unfilled in 20 local authorities. Between 40 and 50 per cent of frontline social work posts were vacant in one council.

The Social Work Improvement Fund, now into its second year, is a multi-million pound fund administered by the CWDC on behalf of the Department for Education.

The funding supports local authorities to reduce pressure on frontline social workers and build capacity for reform. It is also meant to allow them to make changes in response to the recommendations of the Social Work Reform Board and Professor Eileen Munro’s review of the child protection system.

A total of £23m was handed out through the fund in 2010. A further £43.9m has been allocated to the fund this year.

Mary Baginsky, assistant director of social work at CWDC, said: “This report helps us better understand how local authorities are dealing with the challenges they are facing. Employer needs always play a central role in shaping our decisions about future work. We will be studying these findings and using them to inform our work moving forward.”