A Job Analysis of the Role of the Social Worker for the Elderly in Departments of Social Services

The services provided by local departments of social services are one of the main sources of care for elderly living in the community. These services are provided in all (264) of the local authorities to approximately 20% of all elderly in Israel. They are funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs, in cooperation with the local authorities.

Over the years, the role of specialized social workers for the elderly has been developed and these workers are currently employed in many social services departments. The increase in the number of elderly, and the rapid changes that have occurred in the system of community services for the elderly, including the implementation of the Community Long-term Care Insurance (CLTCI) Law, have increased the burden on these social workers. As a result of these changes, a need arose to examine their work patterns and assess the changes that may be required in the performance of this role.

This pioneering study is a first attempt to conduct a job analysis of the role of the social worker for the elderly in departments of social services. The study examines how these workers divide their time among their various tasks, and identifies possible directions for the development of their role in the future. Data were gathered from 76 social workers regarding the actual division of time (time measurement), as well as their views on how their time is currently divided and how they would prefer to divide it. In addition, information was gathered from experts in the fields of gerontology and social work and from directors of social service departments regarding their views on the required changes in this role.

The study found the following:

  • Three-quarters of the time of the social workers is currently invested in individual casework. The rest is spent mainly on organization (meetings, committees, training). A small portion of the time is spent on group and community work.
  • Work to do with the CLTCI law accounts for a quarter of all their time, and over a third of the time that is devoted to individual casework. The social workers' own assessment of the time they invest in CLTCI work (half their time) differs from the time measurement. The directors' assessment is similar to the time measurement.

With regard to the respondents' preferences, the study found that:

  • On average, the social workers would like to invest less time in individual casework and more in community work.
  • The social workers did not express an interest in fundamentally changing the amount of time devoted to CLTCI work. The directors, on the other hand, believe that the time invested in this issue should be considerably reduced.
  • Most of the social workers are interested in using paraprofessionals in their work, especially with regard to legal rights, home visits, community projects and administrative work. A similar view is expressed by the experts.
  • Most of the experts believe that social work with the elderly should place greater emphasis on case management.
  • Most of the experts believe that elements of community work should be enhanced.

The findings of this study provide a basis for the development of the role of social workers for the elderly. The findings were presented to the directors of the Service for the Aged of the Ministry of Social Affairs, and directors of divisions for the elderly in departments for social services. The Ministry of Social Affairs is currently planning to construct new models for social work with the elderly in the Social Service Departments, using the findings of this study.

This study was conducted in cooperation with the Service for the Aged of the Ministry of Social Affairs, ESHEL, and the National Insurance Institute, and funded with their assistance.