Social work staff are struggling to deliver the services that children and families need due to understaffing, underfunding and a lack of resources, according to a UNISON survey published today (Tuesday).
UNISON, the union for social work staff, says that without the proper funding, the Scottish Government will be unable to deliver on its plans to reform the care service for children as outlined in The Promise report by the Independent Care Review.
The survey showed almost three quarters (74%) said their teams do not have enough staff while nine in ten (90%) of those surveyed said resources determine placement decisions when a child becomes looked after. The overwhelming majority (77%) said the provision of intensive family support in their area is insufficient to meet need.
Key themes among social work staff who took part in the survey included:
- Heavy workloads mean social workers do not have enough time to build relationships with children
- Social work staff said decisions made about children are resource-led rather than child-led in the final instance
- Earlier intervention is needed but is not possible for financial reasons, with higher thresholds and tighter criteria used to ration support.
- Staffing and caseloads must be at a level that enables relationship-based work with children and the workforce must be properly supported.
Stephen Smellie, depute convenor of UNISON Scotland and chair of the union’s social work issues group, said: “Our members in children and families’ social work strongly support The Promise, it’s what they came into social work to do, but they don’t believe it will be delivered without additional staffing and resources from the Scottish Government. We shouldn’t make promises to children and young people that we can’t keep and it worries us that without the funding and resources needed, the Scottish Government is doing just that.“It’s time for the Scottish Government to ‘keep the promise’ and provide the staff, the resources and the funding to ensure the needs of children and families can be meaningfully met.”
Kate Ramsden, a children’s rights officer and a member of UNISON’s social work issues group, said: “Our members are telling us that they don’t have the staff or the resources to meet the needs of the children and families who rely on them. They say they don’t have enough time to build relationships with children and they are struggling with understaffing, high caseloads and process-driven systems that mean they must prioritise those most in crisis.
“This makes for alarming reading and should act as a massive wake-up call to the Scottish Government. We need to make sure children and families are at the heart of reform and we need to ensure decisions are child-led rather than resource-led.”