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Hiring PAs for social workers cuts stress and saves money, finds study

  • 29 Mar 2017

Research into innovation-backed project shows successes of hiring administrative support for social workers

by  on March 21, 2017 in ChildrenWorkforce,

Hiring personal assistants for social workers cuts their stress levels, gives them more time for direct work with families and saves services money, an evaluation of a pilot scheme has found.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight children’s services trialled hiring one “highly skilled administrator”, or PA, for every three social workers working on child in need or child protection cases.

The PAs scheduled the social workers’ visits and meetings, carried out admin tasks, responded to emails and telephone calls, wrote up aspects of assessments and helped request information from other agencies.

An evaluation of the project by researchers at Oxford Brookes University found hiring the PAs cut the proportion of a social worker’s day spent on admin from 36% to 14%. The time social workers spent with families increased from 34% to 58%.

‘Significant’ reduction in sickness

Eighty per cent of social workers with PAs said they had “quite a lot or very much time” to spend with families, compared to just 10% of those without PAs. Teams with personal assistants also reported a “significant” short-term reduction in staff sickness rates and improvements in social worker stress levels, researchers found.

Employing PAs cost an average of £4,408 per social worker, but saved around £9,000 per social worker by reducing the time practitioners spent on non-direct work.

“These savings are likely to be further enhanced over time through ongoing low rates of staff sickness rates and improved social worker retention,” the evaluation said.

“In the particular context of teams finding it difficult to recruit experienced social workers, the PA model appears to offer a highly cost-effective approach,” it added.

The PA trial was part of a suite of social care reforms in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to be funded by the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme.|SCSC|SCNEW-2017-0322