How social workers spend their time in frontline children's social care in England

Holmes, Lisa and McDermid, Samantha (2013) How social workers spend their time in frontline children's social care in England. Journal of Children's Services, 8 (2). pp. 123-133. ISSN 1746-6660

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Abstract

Purpose
In England in recent years, concerns have been raised about the proportion of time social workers and other frontline children's social care practitioners spend carrying out desk‐based, administrative activities. This article aims to report time use activity data from front line workers on the amount of time spent on different activities to support children in need (as defined by the 1989 Children Act).

Design/methodology/approach
The data were collected from a range of sources including focus groups, event records (diaries completed by practitioners) and online surveys.

Findings
The proportion of time spent on direct and indirect activities varies according to the types of process. Those associated with ongoing support have the highest proportion of direct activity, whereas those associated with decision making, especially if a one‐off activity, have the highest proportion of administrative activities. The greater the needs of the child, the more direct and indirect support was given, but there was some variation across social work teams. But the activities of social workers are interconnected, making it difficult to provide conclusive evidence, but the concern about the imbalance between direct work and administrative tasks seems justified.

Research implications/limitations
The findings highlight the complexity of exploring how social workers spend their time and how the proportion of time spent on direct and indirect activities is determined by the needs and circumstances of children and their families.

Practical implications
Wider contextual practice issues are also explored including the recent increases in referrals to children's social care and the use of electronic recording systems.

Originality/value
The breakdown of the activities using the approach outlined in the article increases transparency in understanding how social workers spend their time

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Social Work and Social Care
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2022 07:49
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2022 07:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/104104
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