“Do we still need caseworkers?"

Recently someone asked me, “Do we still need caseworkers, can’t the Technical Officers just get the forms signed when they do the survey?”

In some ways it’s a valid question. When I started designing adaptations I would survey (usually) the bathroom, have a quick look at the drains and ask the client to sign the application form and certificate. Most of the bathrooms were standard layouts so I could be in and out in 5 minutes, congratulating myself on how efficient I had been.

At that point it was very much a Henry Ford design philosophy – any client can have their bathroom whatever colour they want, as long as it’s white; with a limited choice of floor colours. And I’m sure for some people that was fine. They could no longer use the bath and would be getting a shiny new shower room and another job would be ticked off the list.

The trouble was that I was stereotyping each client and making broad generalisations about them and their situation. By that point they were on the list for an adaptation whether they really wanted one or not – they were in the sausage machine.

Over the years I’ve worked with lots of great caseworkers. For them every client is an individual. They know that building rapport and understanding will lead to individualised solutions and better outcomes. But most importantly, they have the innate people skills to put it into practice.

Now you may be thinking, that’s all very well but it’s more cost. But what I found was that cases with caseworkers involved ran much smoother, which meant the agency became more efficient. We could spend all of the budget and soak up extra allocations or capital under-spends from other teams and do even more. Waiting lists fell, and we no longer had to manage expectations, we could delight people.

Casework is part scientific and part artistic, but always individualised. If you would like to know more we’ve got a brand new, bespoke training course next month all about caseworker skills – run by the first caseworker I ever worked with and was inspired by.

Alternatively, why not check out our other training courses here.