Social workers are struggling with heavy caseloads, longer working hours and going without lunch breaks, according to a survey by UNISON and Community Care magazine. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said the volume of cases they were responsible for left them feeling ‘over the limit,’ and more than half (56 per cent) blamed staff shortages for their heavy workload.

The survey report, A Day in the Life of Social Work, is based on feedback from more than 2,000 social work professionals, including those in child protection and adult mental health. UNISON says it gives a snapshot of a typical day in their working lives and highlights how cutbacks and staff shortages are taking a toll on the profession.

Nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) of those who completed the survey said cuts had affected their ability to make a difference to the vulnerable people they support. Verbal abuse was another key issue for nearly half (47 per cent) of respondents.

UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “This is a profession on the brink of burnout. Staff are working long hours without breaks and having to cope with unprecedented caseloads. Those in need are suffering because social workers have less time to go out and help them.”

She added: “All councils should set up a system of monitoring to reduce demands on already over-worked staff. Otherwise not only social workers but those they’re trying to help will suffer.”