Caseload Policy

This chapter was added to the manual in October 2016.

1. Purpose

Caseloads in Social Care are of key importance for social work practice and this was emphasised in The Standards for employers of Social Workers in England, published by the Local Government Association stating that:

Standard 3 – Workload management

As a social worker you should expect to:

  • Have benchmarks for safe workloads set for your area;
  • Have your workload regularly assessed in agreed/planned reviews taking account of its complexity, your individual capacity and time needed for supervision;
  • Have your work allocated transparently and with prior discussion;
  • Have your professional judgement about workload capacity issues respected;
  • Have your workload adjusted where demand exceeds staffing capacity.

The purpose of this policy is to set out the Services' aspirations in respect of social work caseloads across the service in light of the Employer Standards.

2. Objective

 The objective of this policy is to enable social workers and other practitioners to:

  • Deliver consistently high quality services;
  • Achieve positive outcomes for children and families; and to
  • Prevent work overload and safeguard staff and service users from the risks associated with high caseloads and unallocated cases.

3. Standards

There is no clear national or local guidance regarding caseloads with great variations between Local Authorities. Within this service it is likely that there will be variations in caseloads between teams reflecting the differences in the nature of the work being undertaken and the risks being managed. For example the Children with Disabilities team will generally have higher caseloads because of the number of cases in receipt of short breaks.

It is likely that there will be times when the actual caseloads will be higher than the aspiration set out in this policy. This should only be the case temporarily and if there are reasons to believe that such a situation would last longer than it would be sustainable it is the Team Manager's responsibility to raise this critical issue with the respective Head of Service/Service Manager.

In light of this it is important to define some clear standards:

  1. It is our aspiration to achieve an average caseload of not more than 20 children or young people across Children's Social Care to enable Social Workers and other practitioners to provide a high standard of practice to children and families they work with;
  2. There may be deviations from the average caseload of 20 depending on the range of responsibilities for safeguarding children carried by practitioners in different teams;
  3. The number of cases on the caseload of a practitioner is in itself not a reliable measure of the workload in the day-to-day work and as such cannot be used as an aid for the line manager to decide whether or not the practitioner has the capacity to take on new work or is able to deal with the current workload. Discussion about the relative complexity of cases and the impact on capacity should be recorded in the supervision record;
  4. For practitioners who do not carry case responsibility for Child in Need, Child Protection or Looked After Children the average caseload may be higher;
  5. It is been recognised that ASYE Social Workers initially should have approximately 80% of a caseload in comparison to a post ASYE qualified Social Worker. However, their capacity increases throughout their assessed year as they gain experience. This will be agreed in supervision between them and their line manager;
  6. Any deviations from the average caseload have to be agreed in supervision;
  7. If a team holds a caseload higher than the overall average this will have to be agreed by the Departmental Management Team (DMT);
  8. Student Social Workers / Graduate Trainees will not be allocated cases directly. They will be recorded as 'involved' workers and the cases will be primarily allocated to their supervisor;
  9. Team Managers should not carry a caseload.

4. Responsibilities

  Task Responsible Officer Record Required
1. When allocating new cases the line manager has to review the current caseload of the practitioner who will be receiving a new case. Line Manager Recorded on personal file
2. Where the workload of a worker exceeds the maximum workload the reason for allocating a new case has to be clearly recorded in the personal supervision folder. Line Manager Recorded on personal supervision file
3. The Social Work Manager retains the right to allocate cases to social workers even if such allocation exceeds the maximum workload. Social Work Managers must explain the reason for this action to the social worker and take responsibility for reprioritising their workload. Such allocation must be time specified and subject to regular review. Line Manager Recorded on personal supervision file
4. If the caseload continues to exceed the maximum workload for any longer than a three-month period, and it is the assessment of the Social Work Manager and the Social Worker that the work will be ongoing, Senior Managers must be informed who will attempt to rectify the situation. Line Manager & Service Manager Recorded on personal supervision file

An analysis of Caseloads should be undertaken at least every 12 weeks as part of supervision.
This analysis includes:

  • Any issues relating to the extent to the time available to work directly with children and families;
  • Any issues to meeting other demands.
Line Manager Recorded on personal file
6. Average Caseloads of staff per team need to be reviewed by DMT quarterly. DMT Recorded in minutes of DMT