The Department for Education’s “experimental” statistics, Children and family social work workforce in England, yearending 30 September 2016 (SFR 08/2017, 16 February 2017) raised more questions than they answered.
What should have been an invaluable nugget of information about caseloads proved to be nothing more than “fool’s gold”. I read and re-read the paragraphs at the bottom of page 5 and the top of page 6, got out my calculator and did some calculations, but still couldn’t work out where the average caseload figure of 16.1 came from.
And the huge discrepancies between the caseloads calculated for different local authorities didn’t do a lot for my faith in these figures. Even the document’s author sounded somewhat perplexed, commenting: “This is only an indicative caseload as the variable(s) used to calculate this will not capture all case holding social workers. Therefore, care should be taken when viewing these figures” (page 6). Well, I hope that’s clear enough for you!!
I quickly moved on to vacancies. There was an increase of 1.3% in the number of fulltime equivalent (FTE) vacancies from 5,470 in September 2015 to 5,540 in September 2016. That resulted in an FTE vacancy rate at 30 September 2016 of 16.7%, or put another way about 1 in every 6 posts vacant.
Whatever way you look at that statistic it is NOT good news, especially in some parts of the country such as Inner London, where the rate was 23.2% (FTE) and Outer London where the rate was a whopping 25.8% (FTE).
Vacancy rates like those speak to me of something approximating a crisis – especially since the situation is getting no better (and possibly worse) as time goes by. And the Government seems to be meddling to make matters even worse by its hastily conceived accreditation scheme for children’s social workers which will mean that they will have to pass another examination at the same time as struggling to provide a service. If I were contemplating moving on to a new career that would certainly focus my thinking!