Managing work - Caseload management
This looks at the direct work of individual client-worker transactions. It is primarily a tool for the immediate benefit to the client and professional supervision and development.
Caseload management sets out the kind and volume of work undertaken by the supervisee. A head count of case files or even of individual service users or families is not usually a good indication of the actual work involved.
If your organisation does not already operate a caseload management scheme for individual supervision, then you and your team can make one up
Remember: This is to help view individual work in supervision, for the purpose of effective effort
Three major elements make up a workers effort:
- Complexity: this includes the number of other professionals the worker is involved with. It recognises the social worker's role in drawing together professional networks, for example in Child Protection case conferences and plans, or when helping a family to make decisions about the care of vulnerable or frail family members
- Risk: this considers the professional judgement required of the worker: are decisions to be made based on risk assessment; is the picture a fast changing one; is the work at a stage where professional anxiety is heightened because of lack of information.
- Travel: does the worker have to travel appreciable distances to undertake the work with a particular individual or family; for example, placements in another part of the country.
If you and your team can agree some definitions within these categories, say on a three point scale, you will have a consistent and clear weighting system for each case and therefore each worker's case load. You can use this to:
- agree appropriate weightings for them given their level of experience and expertise
- define and distil the kind of caseload to help the worker's professional development
- keep a watchful eye on potential stress levels: a preponderance of work with high weightings in one category may indicate potential stress levels better than a count of allocated files
- predict changes in weightings to help formulate professional interventions and intended outcomes
Here is an example of some caseload definitions and weightings and their application in practice. You and your team can use this as a basis for discussion in agreeing your own criteria to suit the type of service you deliver.
1. Contact with other agencies either minimal or operating as regularised / unproblematic or standard. 2. Contact with other agencies changeable, requiring initiation and/or maintenance. 3. Multiple or complex contact with other agencies requiring careful negotiation / advocacy/ development or other high input.
1. No current risk involved /risk assessment known and understood by all parties, with consequent decisions and actions, including contingency plans negotiated. 2. Risk assessment in process of being undertaken, with options for action and decision ready to be put into place. 3. Current risk not assessed / change of circumstances requiring new assessment.
1. No travelling outside usual agency area involved. 2. Regular, planned travel, no more than 3 times per year. 3. Unexpected travel on an occasional basis and/or regular travel more than 3 times per year.
Mrs Harrison is an 82 year old woman living alone. Last winter she fell leaving the house and broke her hip; she made a good recovery and was discharged from hospital to home: an assessment and care plan were undertaken then. As a result, grab rails were fitted at the front door and in the bathroom; Mrs. Henderson began to attend a lunch club twice a week. At the time, Mrs. Henderson's son was concerned that his mother should not return home alone but be admitted to residential care. Mr. Henderson lives in another part of the country and has said that he is not able to provide the regular contact he would like to give. The assessing social worker ascertained that Mrs. Henderson wanted to return home from hospital. Mr. Henderson has contacted your team to say that his mother is no longer able to look after herself: she is being treated for a recurrent chest infection by her GP and is becoming forgetful. Mr. Henderson says his mother is not eating properly and has not been attending her lunch club. The gp also writes to your team recommending residential care for Mrs. Henderson.
In supervision, you and the worker rate the case as follows:
Complexity: Multiple or complex contact with other agencies requiring careful negotiation / advocacy / development or other high input 3.
Risk: Current risk not assessed / change of circumstances requiring new assessment 3.
Travel: No travelling outside usual agency area involved 1.
In discussion, you both agree that this rating should have lessened by the time of your next supervision in 2 weeks time. The anticipated changes through the worker's interventions are:
A clearer picture about Mrs. Harrison's state of health and causes of current distress, the risks to her well-being and what this implies about her ability to continue living at home. Move to weighting 2 ?
Renewed contact with Mrs. Harrison, her son and her gp to negotiate the options available to her, dependent on her wishes. Addressing Mr. Harrison's concerns as legitimate be a major part of this. Remain at weighting 3 for present?