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BASW: Care Act principles in danger of being lost due to patchy training for social workers

Following a survey of members, 75% of whom work in a local authority setting, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is highlighting a risk of the principles of the care act being lost due to patchy training for social workers. 60% of all respondents said training had been provided ‘in house’ by their employer.

The Care Act places new duties on local authorities, including setting a new national eligibility threshold and giving councils duty to provide information and advice, preventive services and, for the first time, support for carers with eligible needs.

A third of the 278 social workers surveyed said the training they had received from their employer was inadequate and 18% had not had any training at all. 33% said the training was partially successful, but there were “significant gaps”.

When asked for their views on how implementation of the Care Act was going on the ground, 32% replied “Not very well” and 28% answered “OK”. Two thirds of respondents had encountered problems in the first weeks of implementation.

Social workers cited lack of resources, struggling to provide information and advice to the public and Information Technology (IT) as the source of their problems implementing the Act.

One social worker said “Personally, I and my colleagues currently feel significantly under prepared and lacking in any detailed level of training or skill set regarding this new legislation. Senior management posts have been decimated and those who have survived are new in post”.

Commenting on the survey findings, BASW Professional Officer Joe Godden said: “I fully support the principles of the Act and it is good to see that many employers have made a good start in supporting social workers to understand and implement the Act. However, a worryingly high proportion of social workers surveyed feel that they are not sufficiently equipped to implement the Act properly.

“It is important that employers ensure that social workers get good quality training and access to information and advice. The social workers who are most positive say that they are encouraged to debate situations and cases as they come in; real action learning.

“It is a very important truth that we should be learning alongside service users and carers. It is a great way to ensure learning is embedded and real. Employers who are failing in their duty need to look at what the best organisations are doing.

“Social workers also need to take responsibility themselves. BASW seminars on the Act have proved popular and we have also shared guidance on how to access materials on the Act. BASW wants the Act to succeed, and there are huge challenges to achieving that – not least resources.

“We owe it to the people we support to fight to ensure the principles of the Act are allowed to blossom and there are resources to implement it.”

Survey findings include:

Type of training provided

  • 30% said the training they had received from their employer was inadequate
  • 33% said the training was partially successful, but there are significant gaps
  • 23 % said training enabled them to understand the major changes
  • 18% had not had any training at all

Quality of training provided

  • 40% felt training that had been provided was good
  • 20% felt training was poor

Have you encountered any problems in the first weeks of implementation of the Act?

  • 68% - yes
  • 32% - No

Comments from survey respondents:

“My team are embracing the Care Act, but IT systems, unclear procedures and senior management delaying decision making is causing confusion and unnecessary stress”.

“No training whatsoever. We attended an utterly useless two hour briefing in March which gave us no information about how we would actually implement the Act, only a very brief overview of the Act itself. After 10pm on the 31st March I received a work email with attachments of the 'interim assessment paperwork”.

“Training was conducted by solicitors who pointed out litigation points, not opportunities for good practice. Innovative practice or discussions of trying out new ways of working within our setting was roundly criticised as "litigation hot spots”.

“The general public have become unexpectedly demanding. They have requested assessments irrespective of advice that has been provided at the initial stage which could have dealt with their concerns”.

“The local authority and the health sector currently are pulling apart rather than working more closely”.

 “The organisation has not prepared for the Act including policies and paperwork, computer systems”.

“Very long assessment forms in a busy hospital social work team, with no training before they came out”.

“Changes to essential documents in my opinion don't fully comply with the Act”.

“External trainers were brought in to undertake the training. They were not knowledgeable, were patronising and basically just went through some very basic slides”.

“Expectations from service users that they will have increased and improved access to care. With complete lack of training we’re unsure what we can and should be delivering”.

“My senior said that there have been no changes to the way we work and in their opinion the Act has not been implemented into everyday practice”.

“New forms made legal, but no training and don't fit with working in a social work way, oppressive, but we are told have to use them”.

“Local policy has not been signed off in a timely way, leaving many questions unanswered for practitioners”.

“The change in the assessment paperwork has rendered the whole system slow”.

“Interim documents sent to staff on the day of change”.

“New assessment forms are not fit for purpose. Older people/ physical health orientated. Not workable for transition work with young adults with disabilities”.

“Public expectations higher than resources permit. Also issues as to where people with mental health and substance abuse sit within the framework”.

“I work in safeguarding and we are not at all confident that we are implementing the changes in line with the legislation”.

“No format for carers’ assessments. Poor knowledge across the board in children's sector”.

“Systems are already woefully overloaded due to the cuts”.

“Managers and other professionals appear confused about the statutory responsibilities under the Care Act”.

“Nobody is really aware of the implications; few have read statutory guidance. Practice hasn't changed”.

“Local authority completely unaware of the changes to carers’ assessments and STILL no updated assessment forms to use”.

“Inadequate preparation and poor training. Expectation to ‘self-train’ from materials sent by email but not given time to read and assimilate”.

“Local authority colleagues are driving through assessment decisions based on budget rather than need”.

“Working at the 'front door' where all initial enquiries or referrals are received I have felt unable to respond to queries about eligibility and have been able to provide sound advice due to lack of information” .

“Limited access to advocates”.

“No advocates to support large number of people unable to understand the process with no families of friends”.

“The Care Act implementation guidance and paperwork has been drawn up by a consultant and is long, repetitive and just focuses on the needs in the eligibility criteria. New paperwork takes no account of other information we require or the requirements of the Mental Health Act (MHA)”.

“The work is a constant learning experience, it makes you feel deskilled as it is process led”.

“Forms are not person centred”.

“Carers have more concrete rights but still nothing extra is provided to meet these needs”.

“Assessment is being determined by money rather than need”.

“Personally, I and my colleagues currently feel significantly under prepared and lacking in any detailed level of training or skill set regarding this new legislation. Senior management posts have been decimated and those who have survived are new in post”.