[Louise Haughton, Principal Social Worker, to present report]
Louise Haughton, Principal Social Worker, introduced the report. The Principal Social Worker explained the background to online survey aimed at checking the “health” of the Council’s social workforce. The survey followed recommendations from the Social Work Task Force report published in November 2009 which concluded that good social work practice carried out by a “healthy” motivated workforce can lead to better outcomes for families and reduce demand and costs. The Council has signed up to the report and as part of its commitment produce an annual report. The survey has since been extended to include the wider social care children’s workforce.
Jennifer Rogers, Quality and Improvement Advanced Practitioner, gave a presentation of the main findings from the survey and invited panel members to comment on the report. The Quality and Improvement Advanced Practitioner summary was that overall good progress had been made towards building on previous strengths and also to identify areas for improvement. The Quality and Improvement Advanced Practitioner commented on work done since the action plan was agreed and published as a result of the survey findings.
The panel discussed the issue of manageable caseload for social workers and whether it should be reduced. The Director of Children's Service commented that caseloads have been reduced over the last 12 months and eight extra social workers have been recruited which has helped to reduce this further. This work is complimented by visits to social work teams to talk about issues and they report that caseloads have reduced. The average caseload is about 18. The Principal Social Worker added the caseload numbers are closely monitored on monthly basis. In addition, managers of teams have access to monitor caseloads of social workers. The Principal Social Worker commented on the past culture of social workers working long hours – often 45-50 hours a week but things are changing and there is an acceptance of the need to find a better balance between work and home life.
The Director of Children’s Service commented on the workforce plan and work done to reduce the rate of turnover. The current rate for Wolverhampton has reduced to 50% of the national average. The panel queried if current situation where social workers working long hours has affected their ability to attend training sessions to maintain their practice. The Principal Social Worker advised that booklet of training events and learning opportunities has been published and there are mandatory courses to be completed.
The panel discussed plans to rollout Eclipse system which is expected to reduce the amount of time on inputting details, in response to the concerns of social workers. The Principal Social Worker briefed the panel on the benefits of the system and that it would offer better functionality – both social workers and health visitors use the system. The panel welcomed the introduction of the new system. The panel were reassured that appropriate checks have been introduction to comply with data protection and information governance requirements and maintain appropriate client confidentiality. The Director of Children’s Service advised the panel that safeguarding concerns would take priority using the existing arrangements for sharing information in this situation with agreed process for sharing confidential or sensitive information.
The panel discussed the reasons why social work staff l were leaving the organisation.
The Principal Social Worker commented on the importance of having a stable workforce and added that the Council is taking part in a national research programme which is developing a tool to identify issues that make social work staff feel stressed. The response from staff has been very positive and they have been willing to contribute to discuss issues with the researchers.
The panel requested a breakdown of responses to the question about the percentage of people never, rarely or occasionally feeling stressed. The Director of Children’s Service agreed to provide a breakdown in future reports for clarity.
1. The panel comments on the Children’s Workforce Health Check 2019 to be considered by Principal Social Workers.
2. The panel agreed to note the report.