Social workers newsletter – March 2022

Social workers could double time spent with families through more efficient systems, report claims.

A report from council leaders finds practitioners spending less than 20% of time with children and families due to excessive record keeping and inefficient IT systems.

Social workers could more than double the time they spend with children and families through more efficient case management
systems and fewer meetings.

That was the conclusion from a report last week from County Council Leaders setting out a “blueprint” designed to keep more children with their families through relationship and strengths-based practice.

Practitioners’ studies typically spent just under 20% of their time working directly with children and families, found the paper by the County Councils Network (CCN), Association of County Chief Executives (ACCE) and consultancy Newton.

Half of social worker time spent on admin

By contrast, they spent half of their time on case recording,
administration or other IT tasks, and significant time in meetings. Researchers based their estimates on more than 100 social workers
logging their time over the course of a week, and through shadowing some practitioners to observe how they split their time.

The report said practitioners’ time with children and families could rise to 45% on average if councils invested in digital systems that supported more efficient case recording, limited internal meetings and expanded the use of remote meetings developed through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The call came as a British Association of Social Workers report
released in the same week
 found that the demands of administrative tasks was the biggest challenge practitioners reported facing in their roles.

Projected care population ‘could be cut by a third’

The CCN, ACCE and Newton report projected that the number of children in care in England could rise from 80,850 to between 86,000 and 95,000 by the end of 2025, adding up to £2.1bn to costs. This meant “the status quo was not an option”, it said. However, the report estimated that reforms could save 95% of the cost and cut by a third the projected number of children looked after by 2025 to between 64,000 and 77,000.

Based on case reviews with practitioners, the report estimated that 39% of children currently looked after could have avoided coming into care had the system worked differently and there was more support in place for families on the verge of crisis.

It recommended that councils spend £205m a year on ‘edge of care’
services to support those young people either at risk of coming into care or who could return to their families where it was safe to do so.  This would involve practitioners having the time to build and maintain strong and trusting relationships with families, working effectively with adults’ specialists and other agencies in a whole-family way and building on families’ strengths to overcome challenges.

Reforms ‘cannot be done on a shoestring’

The report, based on analysis of six county authorities, national data sets and conversations with more than 200 people in the system, also called for investment in care provision to provide more support in family-based settings rather than residential care.

It estimated that 40% fewer children (between 3,300 and 4,400) could be in children’s homes and placed with kinship or foster carers instead, including through improved foster carer recruitment and support.

Keith Glazier, children’s services spokesperson for the CCN, said: “The report throws down the gauntlet for local authorities to work more
effectively, but it also shows how the rest of the public sector can be more joined up in supporting families on the verge of crisis, and in delivering meaningful support to reduce the need for lengthy periods in care: improving outcomes for children. “However, this cannot be done on a shoestring and we urge for a substantial injection of funding from
government this year so we can begin to transform services.

‘Social work at its best is face-to-face’

BASW said the report chimed with its own 80-20 campaign, which aims to reduce bureaucracy and increase support and resources so social workers spend more with families. “Social work at its best happens face to face and that’s what social workers want to do, not be stuck doing admin,” it said.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services agreed with the report’s recommendations of a long-term funding settlement for children’s services, a greater focus on early help and prevention and a national focus on recruiting and retaining foster carers.  “Although care can be the right thing for some children, we should be doing all we can to support families to stay together safely, in line with the Children Act 1989,” said ADCS president Charlotte Ramsden. “Government should support us in this by ensuring we have appropriate resources to keep children safe from harm and to provide targeted early help at the earliest opportunity.”

The Department for Education (DfE) said it recognised the “pressures that councils are facing on children’s services” and that some of the £4.8bn increase in government grant funding for councils over the next three years announced at last year’s spending review would go towards addressing this. “This support comes alongside wider investment in children and family services, including our expansion and rollout of family hubs across the country and through the supported families programme,” a spokesperson for the department said. They added that the care review, due to be published in late spring, would “provide an opportunity to reform the care
system more widely”.

Rob Preston on March 14, 2022


UNISON’s Professional Services Unit is here to help members who have problems with their Registration or who have had a complaint made against them that their regulatory body is investigating.

What to do if your professional regulatory body sends you a letter asking you to respond to allegations about your fitness to practice?

Immediately, ask the branch to seek help from UNISON’s Regional Office who will obtain advice and representation from UNISON’s PSU to assist you with your response. DO NOT REPLY to your regulatory body without contacting the Branch first.

What to do when considering self-referral?

Discuss with UNISON first.  Consider the sensitivity of the case. If you have a health condition, or are subject to an employment
process, this does not mean your fitness to practice is impaired.

What you will need to do

Contact the Branch office and we will ask you to call in to the branch to complete a CASE form.  This will ensure that we have all the information we need to help you. You will also need to provide copies of:
• all the correspondence and documents you have received from the regulatory body about the allegations against you
• all records or notes of your employer’s disciplinary meetings /hearings about the allegation against you.

UNISON will provide representation and advice at all stages of the regulator’s investigatory  process – so remember, you should contact us immediately.

Do not resign from your post.  We know that this can be a very stressful time and can impact on your health, so if you feel unwell see your GP.

If you resign without it being discussed and agreed with us, it could affect our ability to represent you and your case with your regulator. Whatever the circumstances talk to us first so you can make an informed decision.

Help from UNISON

Hopefully you will never need to call on us for this sort of
representation, but if you do we can only help you if you have been a UNISON member for at least four weeks continuously before the alleged problem or complaint happened.

You are already part of UNISON – but we know that lots of your work colleagues have yet to join a union. There is strength in numbers and we would encourage you to speak up for UNISON and ask your colleagues to JOIN.


Low pay continues to be a concern in local government. The bottom spinal column point is now £9.50 outside London. This is below the Real Living Wage of £9.90. The government has now set a new target for the National Living Wage of two-thirds of average earnings by 2024, with the age eligibility for the highest tier dropping to 23 in 2021 and then 21 by 2024 (thereby eliminating a separate rate for 21-24-year-olds). To achieve this, we calculate that local government pay at the bottom end needs to rise by at least 4.1% on the bottom pay point in the next 3 pay awards, just to keep up with the legal minimum

UNISON has an existing Conference policy calling for a £10 an hour minimum wage.

The proposals

The NJC Committee agreed that our core objective must continue to focus on the restoration of decent pay levels for all members and a bold claim is needed.

The Committee have formulated two options for the ‘headline’ claim for the 2022 pay claim. Rather than simply propose one option, the Committee is keen to get a clear picture of members’ views hence, asking you to let us know your preference by using the button below on the following two options:

OPTION A: RPI plus 2%

RPI is currently at 7.8%. Members are facing huge cost of living increases. For example, with the energy price cap increasing, the average energy bill is expected to rise by over £700 a year. Rental prices are up by 8.3%, and fuel by 27.4%.

OPTION B: A flat rate of £2000 on each pay point

This would help to address low pay at the bottom end whilst giving all members a significant increase.

To give some examples of the percentage increase members would get if this were implemented: for pay points 1 – 3 it would represent an 11% increase. Pay points 15 – 21 would get an 8% increase, and 33 – 40 a 5% increase.

To see the flat rate of £2000 as a percentage of each pay point, please see the table below.

Option B percentages

Consultative Ballot Form