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November 2010 – Workload management and case load management in social work services

Workload management is the process of management that tries to ensure that service users and potential service users are given timely, appropriate and good quality services. To achieve this there needs to be a sufficient number of competent workers, who have case loads that are manageable. Workload management therefore is a process for managing work flow. Requests for assessment and the provision or arrangement of services is provided by social workers or other professionals. These professionals need to have the time to undertake the assessments and arrange or provide appropriate support. Value for money is an important factor, which includes the effective deployment of professional time. Organisations need to ensure that they have sufficient staff, with sufficient knowledge and skills to undertake the work. Workload management and workforce planning need to inform each other to try and ensure sufficient staff are available both in the short term and the longer term.
An essential aspect of workload management is the determination of priorities. Workload management almost always involves a significant element of calculating the degree of urgency, risk of inaction or priority when services are potentially required.

In England the Government guidance on Fair Access to Services (FACS) is the main tool used to manage demand. For example trying to ensure that requests for services are responded to using overt criteria such as urgency, or risk. This is done in order to avoid a response that prioritises those who are most articulate, shout loudest, or have strong advocates. The FACS guidance is used as a justification for not meeting need.