COUNCIL chiefs are aiming to cut social workers’ caseloads in an effort to provide better support for vulnerable youngsters.

Figures presented to Cheshire East Council’s children and families overview and scrutiny committee on Monday show that the average caseload for social workers in the local authority’s ‘children in need’ and ‘child protection’ teams has remained static over the past year.

According to the most recent data, social workers had an average caseload of 24 by the end of last September – the same as on March 31, 2018.

But CEC wants to see that number fall to below 20 by March 31 this year – and Cllr Jill Rhodes, Labour member for Crewe West, warned that social workers could become overburdened if their colleagues leave for pastures new.

She said: “I’m really quite concerned about that because within the social work team you have obviously got different levels of casework load for different grades and I think that is masking a potential problem if we get any more staff leaving.

Knutsford Guardian:

“I did a visit on Friday to Crewe and I could see that there are staff that are leaving, not for any reason associated with the council but personal reasons, and I think if there is an upsurge in cases then there is potentially a problem there.”

CEC officer Jacquie Sims moved to reassure Cllr Rhodes, and insisted that caseloads are monitored ‘really carefully’ with fresh information every two weeks.

But she told members that more work is due to be done to help reduce the burden on social workers.

Ms Sims said: “Our ambition is absolutely to reduce that caseload further.

“What we know from other authorities is that where that caseload is lower then the workers have more time with families and can improve the quality of work – so we are absolutely focused on that.”

Mark Palethorpe, acting executive director of people at CEC, added that individual social workers’ caseloads vary depending on their experience.

He said: “When we have new social workers join their [caseload] is even lower to allow them to learn on the job, develop, get more experience and more confidence, and then they would take a slightly higher caseload.”