The government's Social Work Task Force recommended that employers of social workers develop standards for setting out the support and working conditions they should provide.
West Sussex County Council carries out an annual 'health check' survey with social workers and this year 124 children’s social care staff completed the survey. The following summary report includes key highlights, areas to improve upon and work in progress.
- The work we do in children's social care helps to improve the wellbeing and safety of children and young people – 121 agree.
- Staff have access to their line manager to discuss issues or decisions outside supervision – 116 agree or strongly agree.
- I feel able to apply my knowledge, skills and experience within my current role – 104 agree or strongly agree.
- The complexity of my work is right for my level of skill and experience – 108 agree or strongly agree.
- I have regular supervision (in accordance with my supervision contract) – 97 agree or strongly agree and stated this was of good quality.
Areas to improve on
- My caseload is manageable within my contracted working hours – 69 either disagree or strongly disagree (55 either agree or strongly agree).
- Are you doing any tasks that you think could be done by other staff members? - 74 said yes.
- Do you have an up to date appraisal? - 69 said no.
- Staff are regularly consulted and involved in proposed changes - 71 either disagree or strongly disagree.
- I feel more positive about my role and employment than I did a year ago - 72 either disagree or strongly disagree.
Work in progress
We are continuing to increase our blended teams to support social workers with the pressure of high caseloads; we are doing this by increasing numbers of embedded coordinators and child and family workers. We have received feedback telling us that this has given social workers further capacity to complete statutory tasks and direct work with children and families.
We recognise the importance of having an up-to-date appraisal and being given the opportunity at the end of the year to be rewarded for the difference staff have made, and ensure that staff are developed and challenged effectively in their roles. Through the Practice Manager Development Programme a module will be created covering supervision, development and the appraisal conversation so that managers are clear on how and when they are supporting staff throughout the year.
Staff conferences and World Social Work day are some of the opportunities we use to celebrate the contribution our social workers make to the lives of children and families. Our senior management team routinely captures the increased demand on the workforce and pressures across the service. Alongside our ongoing recruitment programme, we will continue to look at innovative and practical ways to support our front line practitioners and commit to communicating these developments to you regularly.
Our Organisational Development team have worked with children and family services leaders to develop a Practice Manager Development Programme, which has launched in June 2018. This programme will see practice managers attend courses to support and develop their skills to lead their teams and deal with the challenges in children’s social care. We shall also explore development pathways for our group managers. By developing our managers we want to encourage a positive learning culture.
In 2017 we launched our progression panels and over the next 12 months, 55 social workers and practice managers have attended them with a 95% success rate, but we recognise more needs to be done to improve the process to encourage an increase in attendance. A review of the process has been undertaken with a number of options identified for consideration and subsequent implementation.