Search

(UK) Bristol: "Unprecedented demand"; Case workers quit over SPED caseloads

Dec 15, 2021, BBC News: Bristol: Child case workers 'would rather stack shelves' due to stress https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-bristol-59669369

SW England

People would rather stack supermarket shelves than endure the stress of being a case worker for children with special educational needs, a Bristol city councillor has told a public meeting. Cabinet member Asher Craig made the comment as it emerged case workers manage "upwards of 200 cases each". The council is still failing to meet its duty to issue education, health and care plans within 20 weeks of request. Ms Craig said workers had resigned and would rather "stack shelves at ASDA". The city council's education director, Alison Hurley, said the local authority had taken steps to make the case worker role more appealing. During the meeting of the council's people scrutiny commission on Monday, a report said the amount of cases was contributing to unacceptable delays in children getting the support they need.

Along with other local authorities, Bristol city council is coming under "unprecedented" demand for the plans, while facing a growing black hole in its schools budget. Only a third of plans produced in Bristol in the first nine months of this year were issued within the statutory 20-week timeframe and the council expects this figure to worsen due to a rise for new requests, thought to be partly because of the pandemic and "fragmented education", the meeting heard. One Bristol mother said she felt the situation for families was no better than it was three years ago, when watchdogs condemned "extensive delays" in children getting special educational support plans. INCREASE IN PAY The damning report in 2019 was by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said. Jen Smith, who has spent years fighting for special educational needs (SEN) provision for her child, said she wonders why anyone would choose to be a SEN case worker at all. "The system is damaging for families, traumatising for children, and stressful for council employees," she said. Ms Craig, who is also one of the city's two deputy mayors, said: "I had an opportunity of meeting all of the SEN staff online last week…. Ms Hurley said the local authority would be increasing pay "slightly", after "a lot" of resignations earlier this year. "We are now back up to full numbers," she added. She added the SEN department had recruited extra staff, "increased strategic management capacity" to support them, and was asking for more money in next year's budget. It was also recruiting extra educational psychologists, amid a national shortage, she said.