The fundamentals of caring

Donna Roberts


Social work is a profession that attracts people who care about people, who want to make things better, who want to relieve suffering and who want their work to make a difference. It is a profession devoted to helping people function as well as they can in their environment. 

Against this background, Social Work Tutor provides some facts about what child protection social workers are having to cope with: 

  • 4.5 million children in the UK are now living in poverty
  • 21% of all children in England are now referred to children’s services before their fifth birthday
  • 51% more children are on child protection plans than five years ago
  • 20% more children are in care
  • 52% more children are adopted
  • 500 children’s centres have closed since 2010
  • Spending on youth clubs has been cut by 33%
  • At least 478 libraries have been shut
  • Real term wages of those who support vulnerable families have been cut by up to 21%

The impact of this on vulnerable children and their families is immeasurable.  And the impact of this on social workers?

  • Half of all social workers are planning to leave the profession over the next 18 months
  • The average social worker only lasts seven years in the profession before giving up for good
  • 92% of social workers are working at least 10 hours of unpaid overtime every single week

Recent research undertaken by Barnardo’s and YouGov in which 295 children and families social workers participated, revealed that shrinking services are increasing stress levels and making social workers unwell.

The research broadly mirrored the findings of an all-party parliamentary inquiry published in July 2018:

  • 73% of social workers said thresholds for accessing support had risen, to the point where “only the most extreme cases are offered services”
  • A majority (62%) said they had seen an increase in the overall numbers of children at risk of harm, while just over half (53%) said there had been a rise in numbers of children who had experienced multiple forms of abuse or trauma
  • A large majority (82%) blamed a lack of early intervention services, which research by the Institute for Fiscal Standards (IFS) for the Children’s Commissioner for England, published in June, revealed had been cut by 60% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2016-17
  • 70% of practitioners said children and families were waiting too long for help and support
  • 51% stated children were experiencing increased incidences of abuse and trauma while waiting

Social workers identified a lack of resources and support as a barrier to children and families getting the help that they need. Rachael Wardell, chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Workforce Development Policy Committee, said: “Protective measures are harder to achieve against a backdrop of funding cuts and an increasing number of children and families in need of help and support."  Social workers also have limited time to work with families due to unmanageable caseloads and the amount of paperwork which they are now required to complete. The supervision and ongoing training they require is often not available to them as it would have been in the past due to the increased level of need and the cuts to service departments. On occasions, they are left to sink or swim.

Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan, described the survey as depicting a “perfect storm” and a “wake up call”.

 “With fewer and fewer resources for early intervention, and long waits for specialist mental health services, we are in danger of failing a generation of vulnerable children who face a future without hope,” he added. “It’s also a false economy – young people who don’t get help now may develop far deeper and more costly problems in the future.”

Without proper investment in social work and resources for families, future generations and society will be bear the cost.

Read the full article here: -

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