There is no doubt about it. Social work is a stressful job. It is ranked as the third highest stressful job in the UK, behind police and prison officers.
Social care is one of the most critical state support services provided to the public, alongside healthcare. Yet the issues faced by the sector are at least as onerous as those facing the NHS. Even without the call to collaborate more openly and fluidly with healthcare providers and other partner agencies as part of the Government’s Integrated Care agenda, social care service teams are under enormous pressure just to fulfil their existing remit.
Recent Kings Fund reports contain some alarming findings about the level of morale among staff, as well as sobering statistics about the high turnover of employees, the number of unfilled vacancies, and the rising skills gap. Most of these issues are due to the strain on services, and the severe implications when social care is seen to fail its most vulnerable wards. Read more about mobile working in social care here.
Social Care Faces Gap in Funding
Currently, it is not uncommon for social care teams to have more than 20% of jobs unfilled. Work-related stress means that, after departments have put staff through extensive training, all of that investment could be lost within just a few years as those employees exit the profession, jaded and burnt out. There is a risk of a downward spiral too, as persistent gaps in the team increase the workload for other staff members who are already struggling to stay on top of things.
It is no secret that social care is severely underfunded, and you have probably heard for the past couple of years that mobile working can help bridge this gap in funding and still help provide a high standard of care. But what does mobile working actually mean for you – a Director of Social Care? It means five clear things:
Gratitude From Your Mobile Workforce
Few go into social work for the glory. The reason why people study hard for years to qualify as a social worker is so they can change people’s lives for the better. It is as simple, and as challenging, as that. However, social workers are confined to their desks most of the week, completing burdensome, but necessary paperwork, and missing out on quality time with service users.
They spend an inordinate amount of time on administration – much of this manual and paper-based. In the worst cases, care workers are reported to be spending less than 15% of their time with service users. This inefficiency is costly to the organisation, stressful to the care worker, and has a detrimental effect on the services being provided. Not only do social workers have limited time to spend with clients, they may be going into situations without the latest insight into a case.
It is for many of these reasons that local authorities are discovering the value of advanced mobile productivity tools for care workers – solutions for creating, processing and accessing digitised case files and associated administration on mobile devices.
The impact of such tools can be significant and immediate. Once social workers can fill in forms electronically using a mobile device, or access relevant documents and information quickly and reliably at the point of need, there is no longer a need for them to return to base to update information or pick up files. It also means that everyone can see the latest information, because paper-related bottlenecks are now removed.
Mobile working allows social workers to complete relevant forms on their mobile device, which saves so much time. This time can then be spent with service users. By equipping your team with mobile working, you are allowing them to fully carry out the vocation they set out to do – care for people. Your team will be extremely grateful, and feel a higher level of support from the Directorate.
Supported Social Care Staff
Not only will your team be grateful, they will also have more time for management meetings, to discuss their caseloads. This helps ensure everything is as it should be. If a case isn’t going well, a member of your team has the time to seek advice from management. They can also discuss how they are feeling; are they overwhelmed, stressed, unhealthy, because of their caseload? These feelings can be discovered quicker, and rectified before they take a serious toll. All of this ensures that your team feel supported, and they in turn, will support you.
Reduced Sickness Levels
The average number of days sick in statutory local authority sector is 10.2 days per worker. With an estimated workforce of 1,297,000, this is a total of 13,229,400 days lost to sickness every year. Another way of looking at this is 50,687 staff lost to sickness every year! Because of mobile working, which allows for more time spent with service users, and with management and colleagues, your team will feel appreciated, empowered and supported, and therefore stress levels with drastically reduce. Not only does this result in reduced sickness levels, it also lowers the turnaround of staff.
Less Negative Press for Social Care
It seems that most people only think about social work when the media runs another negative story. Every time, the authorities are judged to have failed and the social worker is usually at the front of the queue as the blame is assigned. Public services absolutely need to be held to account and we should never tolerate poor practice, but these tragedies make easy headlines and it is too simplistic to lay the fault at the foot of individual incompetence. With your social care team equipped with mobile technology, accountability is better monitored, and issues can be easily flagged up electronically. This means that risks can be easily monitored, and can be dealt with immediately, reducing any major incidents and negative press for your organisation.
Some may think this is selfish. But there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit selfish sometimes. Local Government is portrayed as being a bit “behind the times” when it comes to utilising the latest technologies. By implementing mobile working, you will be seen as a real driver for change; for bringing 21st century working into social care, and enhancing the quality of care that service users receive.