‘Social Work Watch’ the results

Published March 31, 2017 at 8:54

‘Social Work Watch’ the results

Last September UNISON, in partnership with Community Care, ran ‘Social Work Watch’ to shine a light on a typical working day in social work.

On 21st September last year 2,032 social work staff filled in a survey about their working day. The results highlight the huge pressures that social work staff across the UK are experiencing. 

Please share the results with your social work members and take action to turn the recommendations at the end of the report into a reality.

On 21st September 2017 2,032 social work staff took part in a survey to tell us about their working day. They gave details of their caseloads on that day, how many hours they worked, what they did, how it made a difference, and the pressures and challenges they faced.  Here is a summary of the main findings:-

  • Caseloads continue to be a source of stress for many social workers. Almost half (48%) said they feel ‘over the limit’ as regards their caseload.
  • Austerity is taking its toll on the profession, and on service users. Almost two-thirds of respondents (60%) felt that cuts had made an impact on their ability to make a difference.
  • The vast majority (80%) experienced emotional distress during the day while four in 10 (42%) had been verbally abused. Both figures were increases on 2014 responses to the same questions.
  • The majority do not have their own desk at work (59%) and, of these, 55% reported that hot-desking had a detrimental effect on their work.
  • Almost half (47%) of workers finished the day with concerns about their cases; three-quarters (74%) of these said this was due to them being unable to get necessary paperwork completed.
  • The average number of hours worked on the day of the survey –including any time spent working at home – was 9.5. The average number of hours practitioners said they’d actually been paid to do was only 7.5. Almost one in 10 of all respondents to the survey (175) reported working 12 hours or more; 28 said they’d put in a shift of at least 15 hours.

Branches – share the report with your social work staff and management

You can access the full report here

As well as documenting the problems social workers across the UK are experiencing, it also highlights the positive difference they manage to make to the lives of the people they care for despite all the pressures upon them.

Please ensure these recommendations are raised with your employers.

Local authorities and other social work employers should:

  • Ensure that proper risk assessments are regularly carried out in recognition of the high levels of stress and abuse experienced by social workers
  • Introduce caseload management systems
  • Review and minimise the use of ‘hotdesking’
  • Provide social workers with adequate admin support and equipment to minimise the amount of time spent on paperwork
  • Ensure regular, reflective supervision
  • Ensure that social workers take adequate breaks during work time
  • Ensure that social workers do not exceed their contractual, paid working hours
  • Carry out the Social Work Health Check at regular intervals
  • Work with their local UNISON branch on all the points set out above

UNISON branches should:-

  • Ensure maximum membership amongst social workers and trained workplace reps in every workplace  – Blackburn with Darwen Branch needs more reps and Health & Safety Reps in this area, please contact the Branch if you are interested in taking up this role. 
  • Ensure that branch health and safety reps regularly assess the risks to social workers and act upon them


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