Aberdeenshire UNISON

Social work issues
March 2010

UNISON's Comments on the Aberdeenshire Council Workload Measurement Scheme for Children and Families Staff

"In UNISON's view, workload management should be operated within the context of good supervision and should be a time-based model which can take account of the differing skills, experience and abilities of staff and can ensure that they have the capacity to meet the workload requirements" Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair

Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair has collated members' comments on the Workload Measurement Scheme currently operated in Children and Families fieldwork teams and submitted these to the Working Group reviewing the scheme.

General Comments:
Aberdeenshire UNISON has consulted with members who are both practitioners and team managers and the response reflects the comments received alongside UNISON Scotland's own position on Workload Management.

UNISON generally supports the use of a workload management scheme to measure staff workloads, and to prevent overload. In our view, workload management should be operated within the context of good supervision and should be a time-based model which can take account of the differing skills, experience and abilities of staff and can ensure that they have the capacity to meet the workload requirements. (See Supervision and Workload Management for Social Work A negotiating resource at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/socialwork/workloadmanagement.pdf

Members who responded to a request for comments have generally welcomed the attempt in the current Aberdeenshire scheme to quantify their workload and it allows for some acknowledgement of the level of their workload and discussions in supervision on case weighting. It gives managers some measure of workers' capacity to take on more work, though most feel that good supervision is the key to this, and this scheme adds little.

However they have major concerns about the limitations of the current scheme.



1. A main concern for UNISON is that the scheme is casework focussed and points based and there is no attempt to quantify what an acceptable and manageable caseload is. Therefore the scheme cannot protect individual workers from overload. It also fails to look at the quality of the work done in cases or to identify where this is limited by lack of time and/or resources.

2. The points system used does not accurately reflect social workers' caseloads. The points allocation system is seen as being very crude and a quantitative rather than a qualitative measure. "

  • Cases with the same points rating do not all require the same input. Some Child Protection or looked after child cases need less input than some of the non-statutory cases where staff are working preventatively.
  • Points are given for the type of cases workers/teams hold and not for the level of work required by that case.
  • Some responses suggest that families, rather than individual children are seen as "cases". Therefore a family with 3 children on supervision would be weighted a 9, even though the social worker is working individually with all three children. In some cases the children in the family could be in separate placements and yet they would still count as one case.
  • Other responses suggest that points for individual children can take a voluntary case above the score for a complex child protection case.
  • This suggests that it is perhaps applied differently in different teams. There needs to be more clarity about what cases attract what rating and how to weight non-casework elements of the workload eg training.
  • Some cases could meet the criteria 2 or 3 times eg looked after, extensive travel, parenting assessment and so on, yet only one weighting is applied.
  • The scheme is only valid on the day it is done and makes no provision for the emergencies that can come up in workers' own caseload or from their duty work. The figures generated by Carefirst does not take this into account. The scheme does not take account of duty commitments or the work which can arise from this.
  • Non-casework workload is not drawn off Carefirst. Many team managers do try to take this into account but under the current system things can get missed.
  • Social work staff feel that non-casework tasks are not given the time or the status that they need, especially the more developmental roles like groupwork.

3. There is a view that workers are not engaged with the scheme - that they see no benefit for them as it does not, of itself, offer them any protection from overload and does not reflect the quality of their practice or the relationships with their clients. They are concerned that it is more of a workload monitoring tool to ensure they are "pulling their weight" rather than anything which protects them from overload or promotes good practice.

4. There is also a real concern that this is a tool to "compare" workloads across teams rather than a tool to ensure manageable workloads for staff and a good service for users. If this is the purpose, the scheme is seen as flawed in its design, given the potential for inconsistent application of points and the crudity of the of the points system.


UNISON believes that workload management should be a system for employers to ensure that staff have manageable caseloads and sufficient time to apply their skills appropriately.

A good workload management scheme needs a clear measure of what is an acceptable caseload for workers, taking account of their level of experience and their individual strengths. It should be a scheme that workers can buy into because they can clearly see that it provides protection from overload and values good practice. It should also help to identify resource shortfalls.

UNISON would be very concerned that this current scheme does not do any of the above. We welcome the fact that it is under review and hope that these comments can be taken into account in this process. Please contact me if you need any more information or if UNISON can be more directly involved in the review.

Kate Ramsden
Branch Chair
UNISON Aberdeenshire