Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services—Core Social Work Roles Survey: Research Findings
The Chair of the independent review of children’s social care services, Professor Ray Jones, has highlighted his intention to recommend a diversification of skills mix within social work teams. Throughout the review period, Professor Jones has sought the views of social workers concerning which roles and areas of expertise they consider key to social work and which tasks currently performed by social workers could be undertaken by additional support staff if they were introduced to social work teams.
To facilitate the inclusion of social workers’ views in the review, BASW NI and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council administered the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services—Core Social Work Roles Survey. It ran from Monday 30 January until Monday 13 February and attracted 445 responses from social workers who either currently work in children’s services, or who have previously worked in children’s services.
The findings reinforce BASW NI’s view that social workers value relationship-based practice as they strike the difficult balance between working supportively with families to tackle childcare issues and protecting children. Respondents were clear in identifying that communication with children and adults, the capacity to build effective relationships, and the ability to make decisions in the context of risk and uncertainty are at the heart of effective practice.
However, the results paint a frustrating picture, outlining a service which continues to be heavily bureaucratised. BASW NI maintains that social workers must be afforded sufficient time and space to spend with children and families, so they feel confident to use their professional judgement, provide family support, and intervene in partnership with families.
Respondents cited a series of core case considerations concerning the wellbeing and development of children as central to the skills and knowledge children’s services social workers require. These were closely followed in importance by domestic abuse, which was identified by a worryingly high proportion of respondents as a key area of knowledge. In the challenging practice environment created by austerity, in which social work operates at the sharp end, the vast majority of social workers also report that a knowledge of poverty is core to practice.