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Social worker caseloads rise

The average caseloads for children and families social workers has risen in the last year according to DfE statistics

Published on 19th February 2018

The average caseload for a children and families social worker has increased, official government statistics have revealed.

The average caseload per children and family social worker was 17.8 cases, up from 16.1 cases in 2016. Average caseloads varied between local authorities, from 10.2 for Kingston upon Thames and Richmond upon Thames, to 26.4 for Staffordshire.

The Department for Education said some of this variation may be down to differing local practices in case management, with some local authorities raising this as an issue during the collection. As a result, they warned that “caution should be used” when interpreting the data.

“The data items have been collected at an individual social worker level for the first time this year and allow us to calculate a specific caseload measure but they are not comparable to data from previous years,” said the report.

“Local authorities have reported difficulties with linking the number of cases and the social worker holding those cases so care should be taken interpreting the figures,” it added.

There were 28,500 FTE children and family social workers at 30 September 2017, an increase of around 3% on last year.

Agency workers are recorded separately from children and family social workers employed directly by the local authority. The number of agency workers working as children and family social workers at 30 September 2017 was 5,340 (FTE), this is similar to the number at 30 September 2016, which was 5,330.

The agency worker rate at 30 September 2017 was 16%, remaining stable from 30 September 2016 when it was also 16%. At 30 September 2017, 4,000 of the 5,340 agency workers working as children and family social workers were covering vacancies – this equates to 75% of all agency workers covering vacancies.

The percentage of agency workers covering vacancies varies between local authorities. Some local authorities report that none of their agency workers are covering vacancies whilst for other authorities all of their agency workers were covering vacancies.

The report notes that agency workers not covering vacancies could be used to manage seasonal peaks, or deal with acute backlogs, as an alternative to employing permanent social workers. For this reason, high agency worker rates do not necessarily imply recruitment and retention issues.

The vacancy rate at 30 September 2017 was 17%, the same level as the previous year. However, there are large variations between the regions from 8% in Yorkshire & Humber to 27% (FTE) in Outer London and 24% (FTE) in Inner London.

There were 30,670 children and family social workers at 30 September 2017 and the number of children and family social workers leaving in the year ending 30 September 2016 was 4,500, meaning the turnover rate was 15%.

At 30 September 2017, 55% of children and family social workers were between 30 and 49 years old. Eight five per cent of children and families social workers were female and 15% were male.

The number of days missed due to sickness absence in the year ending 30 September 2017 was 226,310 days. The absence rate during the year to 30 September 2017 was 3%; the rate varies across the regions, between 2% in Inner London and 4% in the West Midlands.

Experimental statistics: Children and family social work workforce in England, year ending 30 September 2017

 

 

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