Big investment planned as some Doncaster social workers juggling ‘more than 25 cases’

Huge pressures on children’s social care in Doncaster has resulted in some social workers juggling more than 25 cases at one time.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 2:29 pm

The admission comes as council bosses outline an £8.5 million investment – previously announced in the latest financial budget for 2022/2023.

Doncaster now has nearly 600 ‘looked after children’ in the system – the highest since published records began in 2013.

Bosses outlined that during the last few years, pressures have presented children services within Doncaster ‘with many challenges’.

Doncaster Children's Services Trust is in the process of being brought back in house.

‘Demand and complexity pressures’ came as a direct consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with a decline in ‘management oversight, practice quality’.

They added that home working has resulted in the workforce ‘needing support through building capacity to stabilise current demand pressures’ and ‘build confidence through a strong emphasis on practice improvement’.

As part of the investment, bosses want to improve ‘quality and practice’ across the social care teams, reducing caseloads and improving referral pathways.

Specific funding has been allocated for additional staffing to reduce caseloads and provide additional management capacity to give stability and drive the necessary improvement.

Bosses said the aim is to achieve caseloads of ‘no higher than between 16 and 18’, with managers overseeing no more than 100 cases.

But they add there will be a couple of exceptions to this through the assessment service, which experiences regular variations in demand and as such, caseloads may sometimes be as high as 20.

Plans also include reducing the number of agency social workers by recruiting to vacancies and retaining staff, with emphasis on ‘development, training, appropriate supervision and support’.

Andy Hood, assistant director for practice improvement, said: “The latest caseload data reveals that managers continue to oversee more cases than is reasonable, which in turn creates a culture where supervision is not driving outcomes for children and families at the necessary pace.

“In addition, some social workers are holding more than 25 cases, and this means that their ability to undertake meaningful direct work is significantly impacted, so to the quality of their assessments, plans and the overall quality of intervention.

“Therefore additional one-off investment is essential to reduce social work caseloads, which is pivotal to the development of a relationship-based practice model and to enable improvement to be achieved at pace.”