“Passionate social workers trying hard to champion their profession in challenging times”
How West Midlands ADASS and IEWM have been using case file audits to improve social work practise and share learning across the region
As part of the West Midlands approach to sector led improvement, a process of case file audits was introduced in 2016 to examine the quality of social work practice across the region and to find out how this passion can be turned into improved outcomes for our citizens.
The process which includes an audit tool were developed by a small group of Principal Social Workers (PSWs). Two PSWs spend two days in the host authority undertaking case file audits, supported by Mark Godfrey an IEWM associate. The case file audits take place prior to each Peer Challenge which have been a feature of the regional adult social care programme for 4 years.
The Case File Audit Team triangulate discussions with the PSW/Director/Assistant Director, Social Workers and the evidence emerging from case files and produce a covering report which is shared with the host authority and used subsequently to inform the wider peer challenge.
To date 7 audits have been completed at Walsall, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Telford, Dudley, Birmingham and Staffordshire with some recurring themes:
- Care Act compliance
- Mental capacity/risk assessment
- Management oversight/supervision
- Quality assurance
- Listening to the user voice
Mark Godfrey from IEWM who has co-ordinated the process explains: “Across the audits undertaken, key areas for consideration have been different for each authority, but there are some consistent themes:- the challenge of moving from an assessment and case management approach to a strengths based model of social work, embedding Making Safeguarding Personal, reviewing/reducing documentation and ensuring it supports the principles of the Care Act including the implementation of supported self-assessment, and developing and implementing processes for Quality Assurance including ongoing case auditing”.
Andrew Errington, who has recently become chair for the regional PSW network says, “All PSWs have been positive about the case file audits, and considered that they were useful for both the audited authority, and also provided them with learning actions for improvement to take back to their own authority. It has also raised the profile of social work in the region and its importance in delivering better outcomes for our citizens”.
The audit process has continued to be refined and is seen as an integral part of the regions approach to sector led improvement.
Peter Hay, the co-chair of West Midlands ADASS, has recently reflected on the rationale for the introduction of the process. “As a region we wanted to introduce some additional ‘grit’ into our peer challenge process and provide a focus on the front line services and practice that are vital in delivering improved outcomes for our service users. The case file audit process has shone a light on both exceptional practice and areas where improvements are required. It has provided a means to improve the profile of social work and highlight the passion that that social workers have which is sometimes overlooked in improvement tool kit”.