Coun Owen's column about more support for social workers

04 July 2018

Councillor Philip Owen, Committee Chairman for the Children and Young People's Services, At Nottinghamshire County Council Chairman of Nottinghamshire County Council’s children and young people’s committee, Councillor Philip Owen says the council has listened to its frontline social workers and is giving them more support to help them keep children across Nottinghamshire safer.

Over the past few years the demand for our services has grown by 70% and that growth shows no sign of slowing. As a consequence social workers’ caseloads are higher than we and they would want; but we are committed to reducing these to more manageable levels. 

Our social workers tell us the benefits social work support officers (SWSOs) bring to children and families in helping make workers’ caseloads more manageable.

We’ve listened to this and therefore are investing in more than 20 additional support officers as well as making the same number of temporary posts involved in our pilot project permanent.

This is the most cost effective way of ensuring caseloads remain manageable. The extra support will significantly free up social workers’ time to progress cases more quickly and improve practice and will reduce their average caseloads. 

These new posts will also be potential applicants to ‘growing our own’ social workers by supporting local people from Nottinghamshire to study at degree level and become our next generation of qualified social workers.

Since the pilot period began in 2015, support workers have saved social workers almost a day per week doing tasks that don’t need to be undertaken by a qualified social worker. This enables them to spend more time with families and progress cases quicker, as well as contributing to lower turnover and vacancies in frontline social work teams. 

The move will see social work support officers introduced across all frontline teams from October and represents a significant financial investment by the council in challenging budgetary times. It reflects our priority for supporting and strengthening Nottinghamshire families and keeping children safe.

And at a time when the market for recruiting social workers is particularly tough, we’ve also already recruited more than double the number of graduate social workers for 2018/19 than at the same stage last year and expect to recruit more social workers by the end of the summer. This is encouraging news.

We’ve been working really hard to engage students earlier in terms of recruitment and offering them two social work placements with us during their degree rather than one which has helped them to get to know us better and has encouraged more applications.

Councillor Philip Owen, Committee Chairman for the Children and Young People's Services, At Nottinghamshire County Council

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