Social work case complexity increases due to Covid

Social work case complexity increases due to Covid

A growing number of local authorities are describing a rise in case complexity due to the pressures of the pandemic.

A recent Department for Education (DfE) survey found that councils are now reporting issues such as increased mental health problems among parents and children, parental substance misuse, neglect and emotional abuse, more newborns presenting in care proceedings, and an escalation of risk in existing cases.

The survey began tracking local authorities’ pandemic responses last April. Between September 2020 and March 2021, an increasing number of councils reported greater case complexity. Some councils also highlighted an increase in families being referred to the social care system, often leading to more assessments.

Despite a reported rise in case complexity, referrals are still 11% down on the previous three years. Concerns have been raised about a potential rise in referrals due to “hidden harms” caused by the pandemic, or not exposed due to the country’s consecutive lockdowns and school closures, which may have resulted in many issues falling under the radar.

ADCS (Association of Directors of Childrens Services) President Charlotte Ramsden said: “Although Covid-19 appears to pose a lower risk of infection to children and young people, they have been affected by the secondary impacts of the pandemic such as a loss of learning, the impact of successive lockdowns on their mental and emotional health, and being unable to access services they may have previously relied on. For many, the pandemic will have exacerbated pre-existing challenges such as poverty, hunger, parental ill-health and domestic abuse.”

She added: “Now more than ever, we need to work with children and families who are at risk of poor outcomes at the earliest possible stage, but only with adequate long-term national investment can we continue to provide this vital support.”

AlphaBiolabs provide DNA, drug and alcohol testing services to social workers and organisations involved in family law. To find out more about our services, contact our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email

We are also running our Giving Back campaign. Throughout 2021, we will make a £5 donation to charity for every legal instruction we receive from local authorities and the legal sector. These donations will go to four wonderful charities that support some of the UK’s most vulnerable children and families.