There was an interesting article this morning on the Radio 4 Today Programme where it was announced that the Government would be providing funds to support a thousand new Graduate Social Workers.
No one could dispute the many Social Services Departments are in crisis. Dr Ray Jones who is a leading Professor in Social Work practice commented that there has been a 70% increase in the workload over the last 7 years without any comparable increase in funding or in the number of Social Workers doing this work.
There was fascinating input from an ex Social Worker called Francesca Moran who used to practice in Salford but gave up the job because she found that she did not have enough time to do the job properly sometimes having to work 20 hour days.
So will a thousand graduates help?
Certainly any increase in funding has got to be welcome. I head a Department that specialises in bringing claims against Social Services where they have failed in their duty to children often resulting in those children suffering terrible abuse and neglect. A common theme in the cases we deal with is a lack of continuity in Social Work care. In one particular case I am dealing with the children had more than 10 different Social Workers allocated to them during a period when they were suffering physical and sexual abuse. I am sure that the lack of continuity between Social Workers prevented any bond with the children and that lack of trust probably prevented the children from confiding in the Social Worker and in the Social Worker’s failure to see from the concerns being expressed by other professionals that these children were at risk.
What is needed in the long term is “career Social Workers” rather than Graduates – people who will learn by doing the job for many years giving desperately needed continuity for the children they are responsible for and rather than paying for more Graduates the best option may be to increase the pay and improve the conditions of the existing Social Workers to prevent them leaving the profession. Francesca was a good example of this.