Social work practitioners develop a caseload management system
It is really refreshing to read about the contribution made by practitioners to the very challenging area of workload allocation and caseload management. Biri Yaya and Carolyn Cousins are qualified social workers, managers and published authors who take a keen interest in what really makes a difference to supporting front line social workers and practitioners.
This article shares the essence of two case allocation tools developed by the authors and implemented in a local authority. One of the most difficult aspects of front line management is knowing there is yet more work that has to be allocated to an over stretched team. The temptation can be to allocate to those who are willing, or will offer the least resistance. As all managers know, some staff will over commit and agree to take on more, while others will resist work – and these can sometimes be the very staff who the manager suspects are the least busy.
Many social work offices still rely either on a team meeting forum for allocation – where the overworked but committed social worker puts their hand up to take on more, much to the relief of the manager, while others rarely offer to take on anything new, or the alternative system usually relies on the individual manager allocating work based on their own judgment of capacity, gained from the self report of the social workers. Neither of these systems openly or transparently determines capacity.
The Weighted Case Limit sets a standard across all staff in a team or service, it requires a set case load limit and that case weighting be pre-determined. It allows for better informed judgment of worker capacity for allocation. It also helps define and distil the kind of caseload that can assist the worker’s professional development.
The Individual Capacity Planner is tailored to each worker and aims to assess spare capacity. Here work load capacity is determined using a quick case by case analysis, and rather than use case number ceilings the tool examines the amount of time required for each case. This model has been used both in safeguarding and family support contexts. This model relies on social worker report, but it does introduce some analysis and accountability, beyond a simple, ‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I can take another case’.
A systematic approach that takes optimum capacity in the notionally available time and impacting factors have proved to be effective methods of case allocation. Download the full report including an exemplar of caseload weighting here. Tried and Tested Workload Management Allocation Tools
The authors welcome feedback on these approaches and thoughts from practitioners who use them in different contexts.
About the authors
Carolyn Cousins (MSW, MEd (Adult), Dip. Mgt) is a social worker and adult educator who has worked across the statutory, voluntary and health sectors both in the UK and Australia. She is currently the Assistant Director of Education and Training at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Fountain Trust. email@example.com
Biri Yaya, (PhD, M.S.W) is an experienced qualified social worker and team manager . He has published a number of peer-reviewed articles. firstname.lastname@example.org