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Webinar 5: The Role of Case Work and Case Management within the Social Service Workforce

Webinar Summary and Recording

Click here to view the full webinar.

On April 3, 2012 the Global Social Service Workforce Strengthening Alliance hosted its 5th webinar on the topic of The Role of Case Work and Case Management within the Social Service Workforce.

The webinar explored various definitions of case management and reviewed case management approaches found in different countries.  Presenters discussed the extent to which case management can be used as a methodology or tool to coordinate services through established referral systems and integrate services across and within health and social service delivery systems.  Also discussed were issues such as who carries out case management activities, what challenges these workers face and how case management can be effectively tailored to specific settings.

After opening remarks by Amy Bess, Sr. Practice Associate at the National Association of Social Workers, US, the first presenter was Andy Bilson, Professor of Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire. He recently carried out a literature review on social work in resource-constrained countries and prepared a report titled, “Making Social Work Work.” He discussed the details of the report, including the four main approaches he found that social workers take when working with children and families in the countries under review: case work, case management, community engagement and social protection. He noted that case management has a number of interpretations. One refers to the responsibility for coordinating all professional aspects of the social work program for the child or family. There is also a market model for case management where the duties of a case manager include assessing the situation, understanding the availability and cost of appropriate services, creating a care plan, and monitoring outcomes. This latter approach is used in many countries in the West but may be less appropriate for most resource-constrained countries. When discussing the challenges faced by social workers, Dr. Bilson emphasized the importance of child participation and the provision of services focused on preventing as well as responding to child abuse and neglect.

Keetie Roelen, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Protection at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the UK, presented the outcomes of an assessment of case management and referral mechanisms in Eastern and Southern Africa. She defined case management as a process involving identification of vulnerable children, assessment of needs, referral to services, and follow up. Dr. Roelen also raised the importance of collaboration amongst sectors as well as between the formal and informal workforce when providing and coordinating services to vulnerable children and families. Trained social workers and community volunteers play key case management roles, but are often confronted by challenges such as high workloads and being burdened by administrative tasks that shift focus away from addressing more complex vulnerabilities. She suggested the need for increased country-level mandates and protocols that would outline the roles and responsibilities of the various actors involved in providing case management services, as well as an increased focus on developing monitoring and evaluation systems.

Chris Herman, Sr. Practice Associate at the National Association of Social Workers, US, discussed the context of case management in the US, NASW’s definitions and standards for social work case management, and caseload and workload concerns. NASW is currently revising its social work case management standards, and Ms. Herman highlighted principles that guide social work case management in the US.  She also emphasized the range of practice settings in which case management is used and noted the diversity of variables in these settings that would influence calculations of appropriate caseload size. The end of Ms. Herman’s presentation includes links to a wealth of resources on case management, including a link to a public comment page for the soon-to-be released draft standards. Each of the three presentations was followed by a brief question and answer session, with a longer discussion at the end of the webinar.

Discussion topics raised by participants included: What might local models of casework look like? What criteria should be considered when adapting or developing models? Are there examples of community volunteers conducting case management or case work? How does a country develop a common understanding of what case management should look like and do?  

For resources on the Alliance database related to case management, please click here.

For a NCWWI webinar titled, "Coaching to Support Solution-Based Casework in Child Welfare", the 5th session in What Works for the Workforce: Leadership Competencies in Action - A National Webinar Series on Leading Change to Strengthen the Child Welfare Workforce , please click here