Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

4th Jan, 2023

Abhishek Paul
Abhishek Paul
Job Title
Divisional Manager

As with most sectors, qualified social work remains busy, with plenty of changes being made to help inform practice and identify improvements across the workforce.

In most cases, employers are seeing their social workers continue to deliver exceptional standards to the families and communities they serve, but workforce and budget pressures remain a constant challenge and this has an impact on the ability of social workers doing their jobs.

A fourth minister for children’s social care and third prime minister in 2022 left many feeling uncertain about what the future holds, while the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care made many recommendations which were both welcomed and challenged by the workforce heading in 2023.

We continue to see increased numbers of managed/project teams and improvement consultants within the social care sector but fundamentally, the roles and responsibilities of social workers and social work employers remains the same. That said, some employers are becoming savvier, with improved utilisation of technology and data to make essential improvements across the sector.

With vast numbers of vacancies to fill across social work, we’ve seen large-scale recruitment campaigns used to entice a new wave of professionals to the sector, including a significant shift in how local authorities and businesses are promoting roles and an increase in recruiting overseas social workers.

With a surge in companies focusing on their employee value proposition (EVP), employers across the UK are working hard to increase awareness around their own brand to help bring in the experts they need.

Abhishek Paul

Divisional Manager - Qualified Social Workers, Reed

That being said, struggles across the board will remain until there is further reform and a significant increase in investment and strategy at local, regional and national level.

The challenges ahead

The biggest challenges across the social work recruitment sector remains the inconsistent flow of candidates in the talent pool. Social workers at all levels, in both a temporary and permanent capacity, have been in demand for the 14 years I have worked in recruitment. Since the pandemic, that demand for experienced and highly skilled social workers has skyrocketed.

That said, social work is tough. Professionals need to remember the reasons they chose this career path. Every day, social workers across the UK are making a positive difference and, while the job is often mentally and physically demanding, they are improving the lives of so many people who need support.

We’ve seen seasonal workforce pressures within both children and adult services, and there is little alleviation for those working in front line protection and safeguarding roles. Managed teams continue to play a significant part in plugging resource gaps for employers, and while the recently proposed increase in salary for permanent social workers will help, unfortunately it’s not impressive enough to attract those seeking employment opportunities during the cost-of-living crisis.

Cost of living taking its toll

Social workers have seen the impact that the financial crisis is having on the adults, children and families they work with, but, more recently, many are being affected themselves due to increased caseloads and workloads.

In some cases, social work students are unable to finish their courses, while permanent staff are moving towards agency jobs, relinquishing pension, sick pay and other benefits of permanent positions in favour of increased salaries to combat their financial predicaments.

This has made social workers think more about money than ever before. In an already cost- driven market, many companies are expecting professionals to cover large rural areas as part of their service, which increases travel time between visits, adding further challenges to the role. This is enough to make some professionals think twice before committing to a role.

We’re likely to see more people requiring social work intervention as we enter a recession, so it’s crucial that employers listen to their teams and really begin to understand what they need, desire and, most importantly, value most in their roles.

Understanding the market value of roles

Now more than ever, employers feel obliged to not only increase pay above market value rates, but also create an attractive environment that candidates will consider worth joining. A supportive and nurturing culture that allows employees to thrive and develop is one of the greatest benefits a social work employer can offer.

In order to deliver outstanding social work, there needs to be consistency in high standards and objectives across the board, as well as an inclusive culture and regular training opportunities so professionals can see clear career progression.

Abhishek Paul

Divisional Manager - Qualified Social Workers, Reed

In order to deliver outstanding social work, there needs to be consistency in high standards and objectives across the board, as well as an inclusive culture and regular training opportunities so professionals can see clear career progression.

Outside of this, flexible working, alongside attractive holiday and pension schemes, will help to not only attract social workers but retain them too. Employers need to offer and promote wellbeing incentives to their workforce, as even though the nationwide salary increase has helped alleviate monetary concerns, real-term pay remains on a downwards trajectory.

Employers need to listen to their workforce, take on regular feedback to improve standards and, most of all, be proud of what’s being achieved by social workers – they represent the best the sector has to offer.

Download our free 2024 salary guides today.

Reed salary guide 2024