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Are you investing enough in social work?

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The role of social workers is pivotal in enabling councils to fulfill their duties to promote the wellbeing of their most vulnerable citizens and to protect them from harm.

Social work assessments sit at the heart of a local authority’s most difficult decisions about the individuals they serve.

The challenges facing the profession were underlined for the task force in our many opportunities to meet with and hear from front-line practitioners and service users, as well as managers and elected members.

The accounts we received often made for uncomfortable reading and listening; not least because the profession has failed to adequately assert its voice.

Conditions at work have deteriorated, workload pressures have increased, and councils have failed to invest in the future of this key group of staff.

The task force identified the need for government, regulators, educators, local authorities and social workers themselves to accept responsibility for the state we are in, and to ‘do the right thing’ in response.

But if our recommendations are followed we will create a new set of pressures: a strong, independent profession asserting its voice inside a tightly managed and cash-strapped organisation will be hard to handle.

So, if you are wondering what action to take, might I suggest two things?

First, discover what proportion of your council’s revenue budget is committed as a result of social work decisions; then get out to the front line and ask yourself whether the conditions exist to support this level of responsibility, now and for the future - with all we know that will bring.

Andrew Webb, deputy chair, Social Work Task Force, and corporate director, children and young people, Stockport MBC

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