The impact of Covid-19
With schools closing and a shift to remote learning over the last year, those who are more vulnerable were put at risk which has increased referrals and workload pressures. Similarly, adult’s services have also seen an increase in demand, as the older population who have been isolated throughout the pandemic are in need of companionship and a visit from a social worker.
Both permanent and temporary social workers have been in high demand for, at least, the 13 years that I have worked in the sector. We typically see seasonal workforce pressures within both children’s and adult services – although there is little relief for those working in frontline protection and safeguarding roles – but throughout 2020 and 2021, the usual pressures were felt year-round, and this doesn’t look set to slow down as we head into 2022.
The pandemic not only shifted a number of social work services online or over the phone, but it also sparked more collaboration up and down the country in the form of project social work teams who are slowly alleviating the backlog of cases.
Opportunities in the sector
There is an abundance of employment opportunities in the social work sector for qualified social workers to explore. Many qualifications and interpersonal skills are transferrable across different practices, such as adult services, mental health, people living with disabilities and children’s services to name but a few.
The constant ‘threat’ of a poor Ofsted/CQC report means that employers feel obliged to increase pay above regionally agreed rates, thus driving wholesale candidate pay rates up. Based on data from our 2022 qualified social worker salary guide, newly qualified social workers can expect between £24,000 to £29,500 annually in Yorkshire and the North East, and as high as £32,000 annually in London and the South East.
However, offering a good salary is not the only way that employers can attract the best social workers. Offering flexible working options and hybrid working is also key along with a supportive environment and manageable caseloads.
Above all, a nurturing culture that allows employees to develop is the greatest benefit a qualified social work employer can offer. Employers that are struggling to attract new staff should listen to their employees, take the feedback onboard, and implement new policies that their staff want.
In September 2021, the government announced a social care reform that would see increased funding for health and social care by nearly £36m over three years – this will hopefully bring new change and opportunities for the sector.
Retention is paramount
Being able to attract and retain the best social work talent is key to success in the sector, consistency is vital to promote a supportive and comfortable environment for clients and to ultimately build trust.
It’s no secret that social workers experience high-pressure situations, and the past year has only exacerbated this, with burnout becoming an ever-growing problem. Employers must try and do more to improve employee wellbeing and develop newly qualified staff for long-term success.
It’s essential for employers to look after their staff, ensure that caseloads are manageable, and promote leave entitlement to minimise burnout. They need to provide a high-trust and supportive environment where their social workers can thrive and develop.
For more information on how to attract and retain the best social workers for your organisation download our free 2022 qualified social worker salary guide.