With the impending cuts in the public sector that the new government will be implementing this year, people working in social care services will be understandably apprehensive about what those cuts will mean for them. One area that may be a welcome focus for attention in social care is the concern over the proliferation of paperwork and the time this takes away from the direct delivery of care. Cutting down on paperwork is an issue that most people, whether working in the social sector or not, would support. It is a means to make services more efficient. Efficiency will be even more of a priority with the pressure on budgets.
However, while the reduction in paperwork might receive considerable support, we also need to remember that concerns over poor record keeping have featured in many inquiries into tragedies involving social services for many years. While more paperwork is not necessarily the answer, more effective record keeping should be a priority. Understanding what might be involved in making records more effective is explored in Recording in social work: Not just an administrative task. In her six year study Liz O’Rourke studied the experience of social workers in over half the social services departments in England and Wales and found that recording is a highly complex task. It is also a strangely neglected issue when considering training needs. Most social workers reported that they learned to record by looking at other people’s files, and then were left confused and uncertain as to what was expected when they found inconsistency in those files. If we do not afford a higher priority to recording then we will continue to see social work records feature in each successive inquiry following yet another tragedy. We ignore recording at our peril.
What do you think? Should recording in social work be given a higher priority, or will this just increase the paperwork practitioners are expected to complete? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Liz O’Rourke, author of Recording in social work: Not just an administrative task