Making the most of your social workers

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To make effective use of your social workers, you need to understand how the demand for social workers is affected by the interplay of community need and factors relating to the local agency.  This needs to be considered within the context of national policy.

Examining local information to understand need

Effective social work deployment requires an understanding of local need. Our workforce capacity planning model includes a range of questions, prompts and tips to help you gather information about a particular area and link it to your workforce requirements. 

You could also consider how social workers can help you gather and examine local information.

Through the face to face relationships that your social workers build within a locality, theywill be in an ideal position to contribute a qualitative layer of understanding about individual and community need. They can provide critically reflective analysis and make person-centred recommendations about how the workforce can respond to this need.

The Care Act guidance specifies areas for social work deployment, lend themselves to this type of activity. This includes the role of prevention, early intervention, information and advice, assessment and market shaping.

Social workers employed in the independent sector, many of whom undertake these type of roles, will find this information useful.

Universities can help to locate independent sector workers through their local links, which centre on the need for social work student placements. Supporting information may also be obtained through local social work partnerships.

Matching supply to demand

Matching supply and demand with the predicted need for social workers in the future is a long standing challenge.

The demand for social workers varies with local need and deployment decisions made to meet this need. The supply of future social workers is another complex area as there is no national coordination of places on qualifying programmes. This is further complicated by variations in the recruitment and retention levels of more experienced workers.

Standard 2 of the Standards for Employers of Social Workers in England advocates effective workforce planning. This helps to make sure that the right number of social workers, with the right level of skills and experience, are availableto meet current and future service demands. 

'Re-visioning social work education'  recommends the need for a new strategic workforce planning system.

Local social work partnerships provide a forum for discussion between social work agencies and universities.

The Centre for Workforce Intelligence has developed a tool on behalf of the Social Work Reform Board, which helps employers match supply with demand.

Useful sources of data

Recruiting and retaining social workers

In addition to the needs of the local community, there are a range of other factors which also influence the demand for social workers.

This diagram provides more information about recruiting and retaining social workers.

Models of deployment

The Care Act identifies social workers as the lead professional responsible for personalised, integrated care and support in following roles:

  • Assessment, review and care planning.
  • Provision of information and guidance.
  • Promoting wellbeing and prevention.
  • Transition support.
  • Integration and cooperation.
  • Safeguarding, mental health and mental capacity.

Many of these roles have been tested through the social work with adults practice pilots

Many local authorities are using the workforce capacity planning tools and resources to identify the different ways of deploying their social work workforce to meet the requirements of the Care Act.

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