UNISON, Scotland’s largest social work union, has welcomed the latest report from Social Work Scotland published last week but says reducing caseloads is only part of the solution.
Commenting on the report, Stephen Smellie, UNISON Scotland’s chair of Social Work Issues Group, said:
“UNISON welcomes this research but sadly the findings come as no surprise. Social workers are under enormous pressure and our members have told us they feel exhausted, undervalued and are struggling to deal with the demands placed upon them. This is a dedicated, highly qualified workforce that is critical for ensuring the safety of the most vulnerable, yet it is severely under-resourced and services are at breaking point. This is true of the whole social work team including social work assistants, family support workers and administrative support workers.
“Social Work Scotland’s clear support for reducing caseloads to keep them at a manageable and safe level is welcomed, but it is only part of the solution. There needs to be robust professional supervision and support and recognisable workload management systems in place. Even smaller caseloads can overload when sufficient time is not allowed for the high level of assessment and relationship building that is necessary to ensure that those who depend on us get the service they need and deserve.”
Kate Ramsden, a children’s rights officer and member of UNISON Scotland’s Social Work Issues Group, said: “Heavy workloads are endemic across the workforce and staff shortages mean that work is being pushed down to less qualified and/or experienced staff. Many areas are seeing a high turnover of staff which impacts on building and maintaining relationships with clients.
“Significant changes are needed to give proper support instead of just ‘firefighting’. The Scottish Government needs to provide substantial investment to tackle a social work service that is in crisis.”
Full details are on the UNISON Scotland website