Thursday, July 7, 2022
NewsScottish NewsSocial work in Scotland faces "perfect storm" of challenges

Social work in Scotland faces “perfect storm” of challenges

A report examining social work workloads and caseloads in Scotland illustrates the perfect storm that is enveloping the profession, according to the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW).

Setting the Bar was commissioned by Social Work Scotland to look at the profession’s capacity across Scotland and consider how an evidence-based indicative caseload limit might be established.

Just over 1,500 social work professionals, more than a quarter of the public sector workforce, responded to the survey.

Alison Bavidge

Some of the findings include:

· 78% said high administrative workload was the least satisfying part of their work, followed by lack of time for preventative work (65%) and high caseloads (47%).

· More than 70% worked additional hours most of the time, of which 90% did not ever get paid for them

· 81% reported that they spent less than 10% of their time on training, learning and development

· 59% highlighted unmanageable workload as a reason for leaving the profession.

The report also concluded that social workers are proud of their profession and strongly committed to its values and the people they work with. However, it adds that “the values to which they are deeply committed are compromised, with wellbeing impacts, making the job no longer tenable.”

SASW National Director, Alison Bavidge, said: “Setting the Bar has outlined the wide-ranging and deep-seated problems facing social workers in Scotland. Unmanageable caseloads are just the tip of the iceberg, with little career progression and structured personal development, lack of preventative work, unpaid overtime and excessive paperwork also prevalent.

“It all combines to create a perfect storm which is putting social workers under severe pressure, is damaging their mental health and risks crippling the profession as more people leave.

“The report shows that we must effectively and swiftly increase the workforce to meet demand. Social workers are driven by a belief in social justice and a deep desire to help those in need. They need the resources, time and support to do the job they came to the profession to do.

“Having an indicative caseload limit is the first step, but wider systematic change is required to improve working lives of social workers and better help all of us who need support from services.

“SASW will continue to work for a cohesive social work profession that is accessible, trusted and supported. With a National Care Service on the horizon, the opportunity to make this a reality has never been greater and we stand ready and willing to work with the Scottish Government to achieve it.”

The Setting the Bar report can be read in full here.

The SASW briefing on wellbeing and working conditions can be read here.

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