The Role of the Social Worker in Service Users and Care

When we look at cases for service users who come under the children & families group there are many situations where a social worker would become involved. Once the referral comes in the social worker would carry out an assessment which would determine what help is required if any. Some scenarios where a social worker might be allocated could be for a child that is showing signs of neglect or a family maybe struggling financially and are unable to meet the basic care needs like clothing and feeding the children. A child might be being abused within the family or it might be a teenager who is being sexually exploited outside the home. Some cases are unruly teenagers who are constantly in trouble with the police. What ever the scenario the social worker is there to assess the harm to the child and also offer support to their families. Care plans are put into place or referrals to other agencies are made, but in circumstances where the child is deemed to be at significant risk of harm then arrangements are made for the child to be removed, if the family do not give consent then a legal oder maybe obtained or the police may use their child protection powers.

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A statutory organisation like the Local Authority would employ social workers. They would receive referrals from different area’s like schools, police, concerned neighbours, a family member or it may be an anonymous call. However the referral is received it is then passed over to the relevant team for them to assess the case and decide if they need to allocate to a social worker for them to go and carry out an assessment for the needs of the service user.

In the UK it is common for Social workers to be split across different teams when working with children and families and although working in a specific area gives you a greater knowledge dealing with the same cases the negative to this is as the families needs change their case maybe reassessed and they maybe allocated a new social worker each time.

In a statutory position your role is to adhere to the laws that exist and protect the vulnerable client. Social workers have a duty to abide by the legislation and have the power to enforce it. 

The private sector also has needs for social workers this could be working in children’s homes, within the NHS or working with charities such as the NSPCC and although you will work with similar service users you may not be responsible for enforcing the law, but which ever sector you choose to work in you will still be expected to work to recent legislation.

Working for the local authority has many positives one of them is the pay structure has a more standard approach and they base it on levels and positions. Not only do they offer a job with a structured salary they also provide a detailed policy/legislation framework to work to which enables the worker to protect and promote the interests of the service user. They also promote self care not just for service users but for the staff member, being a social worker is a very demanding role it’s important to ensure the staff take care of themselves with their increasing caseloads this has become a worrying issue for statutory workers. Community care carried out a survey where over 70% of children’s social workers struggled with their case loads. This is an issue for most statutory organisations as high case loads can lead to problems with retention of social workers.

“The government needs to pay attention to the figures presented by Community Care,” John MacGowan, the general secretary of the Social Workers’ Union (SWU), said of the survey results. “Unmanageable caseloads do not help with the retention of social workers and attracting new permanent staff members to a team. 

Although funding is provided for statutory organisations this is fast becoming a worry as the funding is being cut but the the demands are increasing.

Based on a study over between 2008/09 – 2018/19 child protection enquiries have increased by 139%. This represents the biggest rise of children in care which on average means there are 88 children that go into care every day. Yet despite the rise in figures government funding for the early intervention grant has been cut by almost 600million since 2013 and it’s projected to drop by another 100million more before the end of this year.

Overall, these demands have a direct impact on the social worker as it is them that will have the pressure to meet the demands of the increased case loads. “Social work is a community-based response to social need.” Therefore social workers are required to help people cope with certain situations in day to day life. Some of these service users who maybe allocated a social worker could be a person who is struggling with their Mental health they would come under the Mentally Ill group or it might be a child who is at risk and they would come under the children and families group.

07 July 2022

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