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Social work Mayor fears human skills losing out to admin skills

Social workers are increasingly being valued for their administrative and IT skills rather than their ability to work with people, the Mayor of Derby warned.

Councillor Hussian, a social worker for nearly 30 years and a manager in adult services, outlined his concerns at the opening of BASW’s Annual General Meeting on 27 June.

He said: “Each year more and more paperwork gets added to the process. If you analysed how we spend our time, it would be about 70% processes and 30% quality time with people who need our help.

“In adult care, where I have had very direct experience, that is how it feels.”

As a result, he said, managers found it difficult not to make recruitment decisions based on people’s ability to perform office-based tasks.

“If you look at workers who are highly valued, they are no longer valued for their assessment skills, but their IT skills and how quick they are and how much time they spend on the process.

“And if that is how they are spending their time, then as managers you do tend to be inclined that way. If 70% of time is behind a computer, then we all end up evaluating social workers in that sense.”

Coun Hussian said there would be more hurdles ahead as cash-strapped authorities gave duties previously performed by social workers to community care workers.

“What tends to get lost is the problems we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis are getting more and more difficult to resolve. Looking at the service user group we deal with, as a rough estimate something like 35 to 40% don’t have the capacity to make their own decisions. Many of these people are still being looked after in their own homes so the burden of taking care of their needs falls on the social worker.

“We end up doing more and more things for a very vulnerable group of people but at the same time we have more and more unqualified people with little experience of social work.”