Social work team supporting vulnerable youngsters shrinks

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The number of children and family social workers has fallen in West Sussex, according to government figures.

The council has the equivalent of 403 full-time staff in these key roles working with vulnerable young people, a fall of 41.

The British Association of Social Workers said that although the numbers across England had increased there was still concern about the pressures that many social workers were facing

The latest statistics from the Department for Education cover the 12 months up to the end of September 2017. In the previous 12 months there were 444 full-time staff.

Some full-time posts are shared between part-time workers.

Last autumn there were sixty-seven vacancies, that’s 14.2% of the full-time workforce. The council had agency workers covering 61 of the vacancies.

The turnover of staff, the proportion of the workforce that left over the 12 months, was 13.8%. This is above the average for England of 13.6%.

The largest group of leavers was those who had been in the job for two to five years.

Social workers dealing directly with children and families make up 64% of the full-time staff. The rest are in management roles or are newly qualified social workers not given responsibility for cases.

The average caseload for each full time social worker dealing directly with cases was 16, which is slightly below the average rate for England of 17.8 cases.

The British Association of Social Workers said that caseload numbers failed to show the full picture as they didn’t take account of the complexity of some cases where multiple children from the same family might be living in different locations with different care solutions but would be the responsibility of a single case holder.

Maris Stratulis, England Manager of the BASW said that although the total number of social workers had increased there were concerns about vacancy levels and turnover rates in many areas, and the pressures on individuals.

She said: “The pressures on children’s social workers are at times untenable as they are given unmanageable caseloads, work well over their hours and inevitably carry the stress of what if something goes wrong on their caseload. We know only too well that the stakes are very high.”