Children’s social work workforce 2016

Children’s social work workforce 2016 (DfE, February 2017)
Statistical release by Department for Education

This publication reports on the data supplied by LAs in the Children’s Social Work Workforce return for 2015/16. In the past this return has been problematic for LAs to complete accurately and difficult to make sense of the published data, because the guidance has been interpreted differently in different LAs (something we talked about on the Google group when the 2014/15 data were published). This year the guidance was revised and the DfE thinks that the data are more accurate – we would still recommend caution when using the data locally, and there are a few obvious anomalies in the published information.

The report includes a new measure on the average caseload for each LA. As we understand it, this has been calculated by asking each LA for the number of open cases (which should equate to the number of children in need), the number of those which are allocated, the number of case-holding SWs and the number of agency SWs – then dividing the number of allocated children by these total SWs. We think there’s an problem here in that not all agency SWs will be caseholding, so the actual average caseload is likely to be higher than the reported figure of 16. Possibly partly because of this, the average caseload varies from 8 to 51, though the latter is an outlier – only ten LAs report average caseloads above 25 children.

A surprisingly high number of LAs, 28, report more than 80% of cases as not allocated. This may represent LAs which are under particular pressure and cannot allocate cases, or LAs with a high vacancy rate – taken as a group, these LAs do have a higher than average level of vacancies.

The percentage of staff who are agency workers varies considerably across the country. It is generally highest in London LAs. There are a handful of LAs with no agency workers at all, and two where more than half the staff are agency.

The report also includes sickness and retention data, which may be areas where your LA will want to compare itself with others.


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