Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Workload drives social workers to quit

Social workers are rejecting lucrative rates of pay to quit the profession amidst fears at being unable to cope with an exhaustive workload of serious cases.

This is the view of Hulls Ian Newton, who a decade ago used the funds from DUSTBINGATE, his best-selling comedy book featuring John Prescott, to quit his night-shift factory job and train as a social worker. 

Higher pay 

Newton was employed mainly in mental health, learning disability and with older people and adults. As a contract social worker, 18 local authorities hired him, usually at much higher rates of pay than permanent staff because of urgent vacancies to fill.  But he has seen the profession radically change in eight years and he quit at Christmas and since when he has been bombarded with job offers

Bureaucratic nightmare 

I quit because social work has become a bureaucratic nightmare in which clients’ needs have been lost,” said Newton.

“When I started it was about 25% paperwork and 75% working with the client. Now it is 85% paperwork. 

“Some of the increase is the result of the introduction of direct payments and personal budgets, which work well for some clients. The mental capacity act in 2005 also opened up a Pandoras box of complexity and resulted in endless meetings, more paperwork and yet again more computer work and assessment heaped upon assessment. 

“The 2003 Laming inquiry following the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie also led to reforms of the social care system that prioritised paperwork 

You are still expected to find time to help clients by dealing with their often complex needs,” said Newton, two of whose former colleagues, more experienced than him, have recently quit to fill shelves at Asda.

“Work overload means you are terrified about losing sight of the client and they harm themselves and you land up in a coroners court or before a professional body. 

‘Difficult relationships’

“Every social worker has at least two clients they fear will end up dead because they dont have the time to fully attend to them.

Recently Newton also became dispirited at having to tell his clients that cuts were being made to their care packages. He said: I found myself constantly telling parents or the clients there will be less financial support. 

Instantly you are no longer a social worker but the enemy, an accountant. Relationships become difficult and in order to keep social workers safe there are restrictions imposed on client visits to our offices.

As part of a long term case review, retired social worker Celia Stubbs recently returned to her former workplace at Islington Council. I was horrified to see social workers sitting at their computers hour after hour. Our offices were open plan and user friendly. They are like prisons now with locked doors everywhere.

There are few resources and there appears be no contact between the different council departments. Yet you need a joined up approach to complex cases. I am not surprised people are leaving the profession.

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