Agenda item

2019 Social Work Health Checks

[Louise Haughton, Principal Social Worker, to present report]



Louise Haughton, Principal Social Worker, introduced the report and outlined the reasons for presenting the findings from an annual survey to assess the “health” of the social work workforce.  The Principal Social Worker gave a summary of the key findings based on analysis of the responses received to the online survey. The key aim of the work is to improve social work practice by creating a healthy working environment to allow them to do this. The Principal Social Worker advised the panel that the Health Check action plan has been completed and areas for improvement highlighted. The work is expected to be completed before April 2020 and will be reviewed on the quarterly basis.


The panel welcomed the report.  The panel requested a breakdown of the profile of people who completed the online survey to evidence that the service is meeting its responsibilities to promote equalities. The panel commented on the importance of different groups being represented and a positive effect that this can have on recruitment.


David Watts, Director of Adult Services, responded that there no breakdown of equalities information on the workforce who completed the survey. Based on current workforce analysis 85% of the adult social care workforce is female, 45% are Black Afro Caribbean and 15% Asian. The service does not have a breakdown of the workforce and how they identify themselves in terms of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.  There is an option to give these details in the survey response but there is no requirement to do so.


The panel queried the level of counselling support given to employees given the nature of the work they do. The Director of Adult Services advised the panel that employees have access to council counselling services and in addition line managers use supervision sessions to help employees deal with difficult situations. The Director of Adult Services advised that analysis of survey findings will look at which responses are contradictory and identify possible areas for further investigation.


The panel discussed if there was a breakdown of the profile of the people accessing services and how representative it was of other groups. The Director of Adult Services added that the service is working to reduce the stigma about employees wanting to declare their sexual orientation. The panel were advised that a Health Summit has been arranged for 7 November 2019 where the issues from the survey will be discussed.


The Principal Social Worker commented on the turnover of employees and the future work planned to look at the people accessing the service to help identify the gaps in provision, affecting underrepresented groups and also it is sensitive to the issues.


The Principal Social Worker commented on the reduction in employee turnover rate since the previous survey and that figure is similar to other local authorities (6% - 8%), which is about 29 people leaving each year.


However, the turnover rates in some adult social work teams are 20%. The reasons for difference in figures vary.


The panel discussed the current caseload of social workers and the possible link to numbers taking up opportunities for training and development. The panel discussed the findings reporting an increase in number of social workers working more 48 hours a week. The Principal Social Worker commented the figure reported is about 6 people and further work will be done to investigate this. The panel were advised the figures are self-reported and would need the permission of the manager to work more than 48 hours a week. The Principal Social Worker commented on professional behaviour which in the past created a culture where working long hours was considered acceptable.


The panel queried the high number of people who either did not answer a question or chose a neutral response and whether this choice should be removed to get a more accurate picture of the “health” of the adult social workers by asking them to express a view.


The Director of Adult Services explained the benefits of keeping a neutral response option available. 


The panel welcomed the introduction of the ‘3 Conversations’ initiative but wanted reassurance that the Council would continue to support people who contacting the service to check they are happy with the outcome. The Director of Adult Services explained how feedback from employees involved in ‘3 Conversations’ teams is used to inform and encourage more reflective practice among social workers. The introduction of the initiative has meant that adult workers can see more clients referred to the service, while also building better relationships with clients over time and improving understanding of their needs. A key factor has been more proportionate interventions for clients who do not need a full-scale assessment and can be seen more quickly. The Principal Social Worker outlined the different levels of support on offer to the people needing help.


The Director of Adult Services advised the panel of the adult social enquiries which would have been dealt with in the past by the customer contact centre meant that people did not always get timely advice. The adult service teams will continue to monitor the outcomes where people have been signposted to another service.


The panel discussed the idea of presenting update on progress of the action plan to future meetings for scrutiny. The Director of Adult Services advised the panel that progress reports have been scheduled to be presented to Social Work Development Board and suggested as an alternative would be share updates when available for the panel to consider identify an area of interest.



1.    The panel agreed to note the report.

2.    The panel comments to be considered when developing the action plan aimed at improving the health of social work workforce.

3.    The Director of Adult Services to share briefings on progress of the action plan for the Adult Social Work Health Check.

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