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2.7 Caseload Weighting Scheme

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This guidance will provide the structure within which social workers in long term teams caseloads will be measured and monitored.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Principles
  3. Target Teams
  4. How it Works
  5. The Weighting Sheets
  6. Total Caseload Minimum and Maximum Figures
  7. Frequency of Review
  8. Team Manager Workloads
  9. Application Guide to Weightings
  10. Additional Considerations for Specific Teams


1. Introduction

We know that having manageable and equitable caseloads is essential for social workers and managers and this is the reason that this caseload weighting scheme is being introduced.

Measuring social work caseloads has always presented challenges to local authorities. Although there are certain ‘core tasks’, the time each might take depends on many variables – and not least the overall caseload an individual social worker is carrying. However, the consequences of not having any objective system of work measurement include:

  • Unfair distribution of work within and across teams;
  • No rational tool for informed management decisions about the overall distribution and numbers of staff within areas and across services;
  • Judgements about current caseloads and available ‘space’ become impressionistic.

Having an agreed scheme will help ensure transparency, equity and a less subjective measures of demand on a service, it is also very helpful to managers to be able to evidence resource need.


2. Principles

If a case load weighting scheme is too complicated it will fall into disuse. If it is too simplistic, it will not yield very much by way of useful information. The tool has been used over a period of a decade in some local authorities and has proved helpful. Swindon has implemented it for all the reasons outlined above as it has been developed in a way that reaches a happy medium of simplicity but enough nuance to be meaningful. There will, no doubt, be some cases which this scheme fails to ‘weight’ sufficiently highly, and vice versa; overall, however, experience indicates that the tool produces a fair indication of caseloads and significantly helps to allocate cases appropriately across workers and teams.

The tool has been developed to help social workers and supervisors measure and manage work, it should therefore be completed together with the social worker and their supervising manager working to reach a consensus on points to be allocated, but within the parameters explained here. This also then ensures fair comparisons across teams and supervisors.


3. Target Teams

This scheme has been designed for measuring casework within children’s social work teams including the four long term teams, Disabled Children’s team and Fostering and Adoption. It is not applicable without modification to other areas of work. It assumes that a significant amount of social worker and team manager time will be taken up with child protection cases (enquiries and implementing CP plans), Looked After Children and preventive support offered to families and children in need.

In addition, it seeks to give appropriate weighting to other types of cases and work, which may be very time consuming, for example, in fostering and adoption services. This model has been used in many other local authorities and has credibility in terms of usage.

Please note, though, that given the complexity of the social work task in a local authority setting, and the difficulty of predicting how long certain tasks will take, this process is only indicative and not definitive. That is, it is a snap-shot, which gives an indication of the volume of any one caseload at the time completed.


4. How it Works

The scheme identifies the key tasks and types of case and awards specific weightings, each varying from 4 to 10 points.

Duty cover has been excluded from the exercise as it is recognised that all staff contribute in some way to duty and this is time specific rather than case specific.

We may identify changes we would wish to make in Swindon but these should not be made without the express approval of the Head of Service through the senior leadership team – this is to ensure consistency and application across the board of all services; compliance with the scheme is expected in every team and by every manager.


5. The Weighting Sheets

These may look complicated, but soon become easy to understand and implement! Cases are listed from top to bottom in the left-hand column.

A family counts as one case for child in need cases only i.e. one family = one case but for all other children they count as individual children if Looked After or are subject to Child Protection Plans i.e. one child = one case.

If using the correct template (see Caseload Weighting Template) they will automatic add up the totals in the last column.


6. Total Caseload Minimum and Maximum Figures

No minimum or maximum figure has been set. What has emerged elsewhere is a ‘bandwidth’ that is being regarded as average and reasonable for an experienced social worker. At this time, this equates very broadly to between 300 and 400 points per social worker dependent experience.


7. Frequency of Review

Having initially completed a worksheet (page) for each social worker supervisors and social workers should review the weightings monthly, normally in the course of supervision. This allows an up-to-date understanding of the case load to be produced quickly, representing a ‘monthly snapshot’. This process also allows for effective case allocations. Team managers elsewhere have reported how helpful it is in achieving a real equity of work distribution within teams.

The other benefit is that the process also shows up excessive work under the individual column headings. For example, it easily shows that one social worker’s caseload contains too heavy a concentration of CP or CLA or excessive travelling factors – trends that can be remedied by subsequent allocation patterns.

It is also expected that within teams there is secure open access (electronically) to the caseload sheets to enable transparency and openness to social workers in a team regarding allocations across the team.


8. Team Manager Workloads

When preparing the updated caseload weighting sheets, team managers are to aggregate the staff scores, and prepare average caseload score for the ATM’s as indicative of where pressures lie in terms of actual input as opposed to numbers of supervisees. Once this is done, team managers then aggregate the ATM’s scores as this will provide individual team manager workloads. By aggregating team scores it is possible to produce data of comparative team manager workloads. This may reveal unexpected differences and help identify those managers with more opportunity to undertake special projects or tasks.

The data produced also paints a picture of where the pressure points are across the service as a whole and provides vital information to enable senior managers to ensure the service is resourced effectively.


9. Application Guide to Weightings

When applied carefully this guidance will help ensure consistent scoring across teams (numbers relate to those in column headings).

Heading: Head each social workers record with their team name, their name, their grade (i.e. AYSE, SW, Experienced, Consultant social worker) and the date the record has been completed or last updated. You may also wish to record who the supervisor is for the worker. If not full time also note if they are part time how many hours they work

First Column: record the child’s name for each child if CLA or CP. Or family name/s for children in need cases and how many children are in the family i.e. Jones x 4.
Please ensure correct spelling and family (last) name is always first- this enables searches using the 'find' tool is easy.

Column B: Note the locality area a child lives in i.e. CN - Central North, N - North, CS - Central South and S - South. (this because occasionally a case may be allocated outside their home area). For CLA note the area they lived in with their parents before being placed

Column C: All cases/families are given 10 points for each child if CP/CLA or for the whole family (i.e. one case) if CIN. This is to reflect that there is core practice requirements for all children regardless of their status.

However for CIN families that have large sibling numbers extra points can be placed here. Where there is 4 or more children add an additional 10 points 7 or more children a further 10 points. So the total score in this box would be 20 and 30 respectively.

Other circumstances to reflect here: Where joint/co-working between two workers, If it is clear that one is the ‘lead social worker’ and the other is playing a much reduced role, award full weighting to the first and a reduced weighting to the second (50% weighting is suggested but this will be dependent on the amount of work and discretion needs to be applied).

Where a child is subject to a Supervision Order, they will count as CiN cases i.e. 10 points per family based on an expectation of one visit per to the family home every 2 – 4 weeks and routine tasks. Should the case be particularly complex i.e. requiring weekly contact then additional points can be awarded and reviewed at regular intervals.

Column D: Score for each Child Looked After. As well as the first 10 points in column ‘’C’ mark a standard additional 6 points (refers to stable, settled placements requiring little more than the minimum number of statutory 4-6 weekly visits, six-monthly CLA Reviews, medical, PEP and other routine duties. It includes maintaining contact with those who hold Parental Responsibility.

However score additional points for CLA where the placement requires an unusually high level of social worker input – and additional 4 points, (e.g. frequent weekly visits, high level of support to/contact with parents/carers, child and/or birth family). So making a total of 10points here. It is likely that new placements and children moving between placements, especially following a disruption, will attract the higher weighting for the first month but not indefinitely.

Column E: Each child subject to a Child Protection Plan attracts 6 points. This takes account of frequent visits to the home – at least every every 10 days, and work with parents/carers, all the duties attached to being Key Worker and the preparation of reports to the CP conferences.

Similar to CLA where the CP case is CP is of unusual and above average complexity, an additional 4 points may be added. ‘Unusual and above average complexity’ means, for example, the active maintenance of a large professional network, problems of aggressive non co-operation, exceptionally high CP risk factors and frequent visits to the child - two or more a week by the social worker.

Column F: For each case PLO / family / court proceedings (including SGO’s) add 10 points per sibling group/ family.
If there are particularly complex court issues and a number of children and care plans then 10 points remain allotted until the case becomes more settled in the court arena.
It does not include applications to revoke Care Orders S7 or s37 Court Reports (i.e. pending care proceedings some weeks away do not count until the month in which the matter is heard).
Directions appointments will not usually count unless exceptionally demanding of social worker time and skill.

Column G: Whilst being completed or updated S47 assessments/ single assessments attract 10 points per child for CP /CLA or 10 points per CiN family for the maximum 40 days in which the assessment is expected to take undertaken.

Column H: the standard 10 point weight (column C) already includes an element for travel within the Borough boundaries. However where a child/family is placed outside Swindon points can be awarded for excessive travelling, as follows:

  • Within immediate local neighbouring areas i.e. Wiltshire, Gloucs, Oxen, West Berks = award 4 points;
  • Where travel takes more than one hour and less than two each way = 6 points;
  • Where it takes more than two hours in each direction = 10 points.

This is a permanent weighting whilst the case is open and the child placed there.

Column J: A time-limited specific piece of work by social worker e.g. Life Story work with CLA, specific programme such as parenting skills with parent or independence skills with care leaver attracts a further 5 points. It is expected that pieces of work will be time specific and no more than three continuous months and explicitly agreed with the team manager.

The additional 5 points is also given where the social worker has the direct role in carrying out supervision of contact in person in CLA cases, (not for managing the contact without supervising it). If contact is relatively infrequent e.g. less than once per month, this score should only be awarded for the month in which the contact takes place.

Completion of CPR’s and Annex B’s in the long term teams are predominantly informed by information already held in the children’s files, therefore will attract 5 points for the one month in which it is written.

Parenting assessments & specific pieces of work over and above the usual considerations contained within assessments should not run for more than two continuous months and explicitly agreed with team manager – these will also attract 5 points for the two month period.

Section 7 reports and private proceedings may attract an additional 5 points only at the time of actively being worked.

Column K: Approved group work or other special project work, which takes place within time normally devoted to case-based work.

Case Closures:
Points should remain on the sheets for the month in which a case is to be closed. However after this time the points should be removed and the word ‘TO BE CLOSED’ clearly typed in the end column.


10. Additional Considerations for Specific Teams

Children with Disabilities Team

The Children with Disabilities team will use the same system, simply adding the cases that are 'Care Managed'. These show the 'non-active' social work cases that nonetheless require proactive periodic reviewing and a communication point. These cases should be allocated 5 points. However, where it is clear that a care managed case requires active social work the case will need to be re-considered by the team manager for full allocation.

Leaving Care

Leaving Care adapt this system with the CP column removed and instead columns that reflects the 'category' of young person being either eligible under the Children (Leaving Care) Act, relevant or former relevant.

Column D will attract 6 points if the young person is still looked after and aged 16-18 years of age.

Column E would not usually be used excepting the most complex of cases where active safety /child protection concerns exist.

This is within the context that it is a legal requirement for the Local Authority to appoint a Personal Advisor to each young person who has been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 year s and is now 16/17 years old, either currently being looked after or has left care since becoming 16 years old. Upon reaching 18 years and therefore no longer looked after, the Local Authority continues to have a duty to provide access to a Personal Advisor to support the individual young person whilst their entitlement remains.

It is not possible to be prescriptive regarding visiting timescales / contact with a young person as is dependant on situation and need, as well as ensuring all other tasks are completed. However, it is expected that the Leaving Care Advisor will visit on a minimum monthly basis.

Fostering and Adoption teams

The fostering and adoption teams will use the same broad set of guidelines and caseload weighting sheets for the supervising social workers (this is not applicable for the social care workers) with the following adaptations for them in particular:

Column B: Basic weighting: 10 points for foster family.

Column C: Assessments: Undertaking specific assessments for carers with an agreed timeframe. 5 points for assessments / reports, 10 points for more complex assessments / reports such as Form F’s. This includes all tasks associated with the assessment or report including presentation at relevant panels.

Column D: Approved carer reviews: undertaking specific written work for carer’s annual reviews, JEMs etc. within an agreed timeframe. 5 points for each report, 10 points for report and attendance at the annual review, awarded for the month its’ relevant for only.

Column E: Additional support to carer / placement: This is for support work beyond basic tasks to ensure the stability of the placement. 5 points for simple tasks and 10 points for more complex tasks to be agreed by the line manager.
Support work includes as examples: arranging mentoring / buddying, complex placement moves (adoption), arranging child’s respite / transport, support under Reg 24.

Column F: Additional travel is applied in the same way as the main scheme guidance outlined above.

Column H: Group / project / non-casework that is not directly linked to an allocated carer. 5 points for work that is less than half a day and 10 points if more than half a day a month

  • Fostering groups including children who foster group, Family and Friends group, post adoption group;
  • Preparation groups, including reports / feedback, Information sessions.

Finally: consistency is key to ensuring equity across workers and teams and will truly reflect work load pressures. Be mindful of not scoring to placate workers anxieties. No caseload weighting scheme replaces good reflective supervision.

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