Our survey confirms that social work paraprofessionals are increasingly carrying out the roles of qualified social workers but without the pay and recognition. “Paraprofessionals” include social work assistants, family support workers and staff in other support roles within fieldwork teams including justice officers.
UNISON’s Social Work Issues Group (SWIG) has been concerned for some time about the greater responsibilities being placed on this group of staff. The survey was carried out to identify priorities both for SWIG and for branches. With a National Social Work Agency currently in development this report sets out some of the issues that must be addressed:
- 68% taking part in our survey say their responsibilities have increased since they came into post.
- They report taking over the duties of qualified social workers or doing the same job as a social worker: holding complex cases alone, having full responsibility for carrying out higher level assessments. For some this includes adult and child protection work.
- Staff being asked to undertake duties for which they do not feel sufficiently trained or supported due to the shortage of social workers.
- Pay inequity not only with social workers, but between social work assistants and family support workers, and between other groups of paraprofessional staff within and between councils.