Caseloads, stress bury social workers: Study

Almost 60% in B.C. say they can’t give clients due attention

For Metro Vancouver

Nearly two-thirds — 60 per cent — of front-line social workers in British Columbia said they “rarely” or “never” give adequate attention to children and families due to unmanageable caseloads and high stress levels, according to a report released yesterday.

A study by the Pivot Legal Society involving 109 current and former employees of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) suggests that B.C.’s child protection programs are compromised by a lack of government funding.

“Social workers felt that they didn’t have the ability to do what they needed to do with families and fulfil their reporting responsibilities,” said Darcie Bennett, researcher for Pivot.

Employees also reported that “burnout” took a toll on their emotional health as a result of the lack of resources and time, affecting their own relationships with their families and physical health.

Pivot lawyer Lobat Sadrehashemi said the study’s results are “alarming.”

“The overarching principle is to protect the interests of children, and here we have more than half of social workers pointing to a lack of resources and preventative measures.”

Paul Jenkinson, a spokesperson for the B.C. Association of Social Workers, said these problems have been known since the mid-1990s.

“It’s disturbing that it continues,” he said. “Seventy per cent (of welfare clients) are children who are born into poverty and have no political power.”

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