Exclusive: Community Care workforce survey of 2,000 people


More than 2,000 responses across all sectors, and across all
levels of seniority.

What makes you want to stay in your job? And what makes you feel
like running screaming to the hills? Our exclusive Community Care
survey asked more than 2,000 people why they choose to stay, what
drives them to leave. The findings make interesting reading, both
for employers and employees.

Top reasons to stay 

1. Job Satisfaction – 91% 
2. Good relationship with colleagues – 90% 
3. Good relationship with manager – 89%  
4. Good pay and conditions – 89%  
5. Interesting and challenging work – 89%  
6. Adequate resources – 74%  
7. Training Opportunities – 73%  
8. Flexible working hours – 69%  

Top reasons for leaving

1. Poor relationship with manager – 90%  
2. Poor pay and conditions – 88%  
3. Workload too high – 82% 
4. Poor relationship with colleagues – 79%
5. Inadequate resources 76%  
6. Poor senior support and advice – 75%  
7. Poor potential for promotion – 71%  
8. Poor training opportunities – 67% 


No.1 Job Satisfaction: Hardly surprising in a
sector many people choose because of their desire to help people
and to “make a difference”.  People said it was down to
“a sense of being valued”, others said they felt they
were doing something valuable for a community they cared about.

Some interesting divisions emerged – for instance, job
satisfaction was much more important for directors of
organisations, than it was for front line workers. People working
for NHS trusts, Housing Associations and Primary Care Trusts valued
their job satisfaction even higher, with 95 per cent selecting

No. 2 Good relationships with colleagues:
Particularly valued by people in housing associations (95 per
cent), not quite so important to people in central government (85
per cent). One approved social worker commented “Safe
practice with trustworthy colleagues – nothing to do with the
local authority’s attention to safe working!”

No 3: Good relationship with manager: Long
recognised as a key factor in retention. Predictably, frontline
staff and first line managers rated it very highly with 9 out of 10
saying their relationship with their manager was a crucial factor.
Directors and senior managers appear to be less concerned about it
(although 8 out of 10 still named it as significant).

No. 4 Good pay and conditions: While social
care doesn’t have a great reputation for pay levels, terms
and conditions are a reason to stay for many. Respondents
particularly highlighted final salary pensions, good holiday
entitlement, sympathetic treatment for people with caring
responsibilities or children, and well-implemented equal
opportunities policies.

No.5 Adequate resources: A reason to stay for
around three quarters of respondents. However, two groups thought
it was more important – people from the private sector (80
per cent) and from central government (83 per cent). Directors of
social services, on the other hand, thought adequate resources were
less significant – just 63 per cent highlighted them as a
reason for staying. This possibly indicates they are accustomed to,
or understand the causes behind, financial strictures.

No. 6. Good training opportunites: mentioned by
73 per cent of respondents. Unsurprisingly, these were most often
cited by newly arrived staff (80 per cent of whom said they were a
reason to stay). Directors of organisations were less enthusiastic
with just 59 per cent mentioning them.

No 7. Flexible working hours: Average overall
stood at 69 per cent, but understandably much more important to
part time staff, with  83 per cent selecting them.

No. 8 Potential for promotion: High on the
agenda for newly arrived workers, with 7 out of 10 saying they were
staying for this reason. After a few years in post, however, only
58 per cent saw it as a reason to stay. Those working in central
government were even less enthusiastic, with just 52 per cent
highlighting it.


Stable Organisation: Given the vociferous
complaints about the rate of change imposed on social care
professionals over recent years, it was a surprise to find that a
stable organisation was not one of the major reasons to stay, with
just over half highlighting it. Exceptions were directors of social
services, who thought it was less of an issue (4 out of 10 who said
it was a reason to stay), and housing association members, who
thought it was very significant (7 out of 10).

Employer’s reputation: 50 per cent of
directors thought the reputation of any employer was a reason to
stay. Front line social workers disagreed – less than a quarter
thought it had any bearing.

Perks and fringe benefits: another area where
social workers and directors differ. Only one in 10 directors said
their perks were a reason to stay, whereas 43 per cent of social
workers and senior social workers felt they were worth keeping.

Support and supervision: Given the comments
from people completing the questionnaire, you’d be forgiven
for thinking that support and supervision are vital and one of the
key ingredients in retention of staff. Yet, on average, support and
supervision were mentioned by just one in a hundred respondents.
The same applies to being valued and respected. Despite many
respondents complaining bitterly that their professional skills and
contribution are not being valued by their employer, just one
person in a hundred said they were a reason to stay.


These figures give the lie to the idea that social care’s
recruitment and retention crisis is predominantly driven by poor
pay. In fact, relationships with managers and colleagues, and
issues around support, supervision and workloads are all
contributing heavily to the sector’s problems.

1. Poor relationship with manager: Part timers
and middle managers are more likely to have problems with their
manager (more than 9 out of 10 say it’s a reason to leave)
while directors are less likely (although 84 per cent still report
it as a factor). One respondent blamed “ever increasing
responsibilities, and lack of support from higher
management”. Another commented “poor leadership –
too many directors are just passing through. No stability and too
much self-promotion.”

2: Poor pay and conditions: This was inevitably
going to be a major factor. Respondents felt that the levels of
stress and responsibility were simply not reflected in the pay for
their posts. One said “I simply feel undervalued and
underpaid for a very responsible and stressful job.”  And if
statutory organisations come off badly, the situation is worse in
voluntary posts, NHS trusts, and the private sector with 91 per
cent, 94 per cent and a staggering 98 per cent of respondents
respectively citing it as a reason to leave.

3: Workload too high. Another major bugbear.
Respondents cited  “excessive unpaid, unrecognised
overtime”, “unreasonably high workload”, and
“insufficient team members to share the load and provide an
effective service”. Part timers and department heads are
particularly badly affected, but front line staff come off worst,
with 9 out of 10 respondents saying their workload would be a major
factor in deciding to leave.

4. Poor relationships with colleagues: NHS
trusts and part time employees both have the most problems with
colleagues, with 90 per cent of NHS trust staff and 84 per cent of
part timers citing relationships with co-workers as a reason to

5. Inadequate resources: Another major problem.
One respondent said they were disullisioned because “policies
are led by finances”. Interestingly, while eight out of 10
social workers and a similar proportion of staff who’ve been
in post for more than 11 years both said inadequate resources were
a big issue for them, it was even more significant for central
government employees, with nearly 9 out of 10 reporting it.
Directors were the least affected, but seventy per cent still
raised it as an issue.

6. Poor senior support and advice. Three
quarters of respondents said that lack of senior support and advice
would be a factor in a decision to leave their job. Directors were
less affected, with 69 per cent saying it would drive them to
leave, whereas 80 per cent of social workers felt it was a major
cause. 87 per cent of employees in private sector organisations
said it was a factor.

7. Poor potential for promotion. A major factor
for social care staff who’ve been in post for less than a
year, a fairly minor factor for those who’ve been in the job
for a decade or more. Interestingly, this is one of the top reasons
to leave for people employed in the private sector (78 per

8. Poor training opportunities. Around two
thirds or respondents said this was an issue. Most likely to pick
this as a reason to leave were frontline staff, newly appointed
workers and those in NHS trusts (more than three quarters selected
it) Least likely were directors, and people working for housing
associations (just over half).


Unstable organisation or structures: Around half of respondents
thought this was a reason to leave. Directors of social services
and PCT staff were less worried (48 and 49 per cent respectively –
perhaps they are used to reorganisations) while 7 in 10 senior
social workers and social workers said it was an issue.

And 4 out of 10 respondents mentioned “too many new
initiatives” or “initiative overload” –
particularly affected were those who’d been in post for more
than 6 years (50 per cent), and front line social work staff (46
per cent).

  • “Emptying hospital beds more important than
  • “Comparisons with health pay whose incomes have
  • “Feeling of not achieving anything”
  • “Lack of consultation”
  • “Bullying and abuse of power”
  • “Blame culture and poor standards”
  • “Organisations functioning mainly on goodwill”
  • “Constant criticism from management”
  • “Too many high flying directors who have no leadership
  • “Too much admin and crap computer systems that make you
    replicate your paperwork”
  • “Unfeasibility of government initiatives”
  • “Emotionally demanding job”
  • “Lack of contact with the people I initially intended to
    work with”
  • “Undervalued”
  • “Not being able to do a good job because of staff
    vacancies and lack of resources”
  • “High rate of badly managed change”
  • “Exhaustion, and exasperation of piecing together work
    which you know are not adequate or good enough to meet real needs
    and reduce real risks”
  • “Degree of inspection and scrutiny detracting from the
    job of delivering good services”
  • “The way the public sector is used by government to
    satisfy political aims”
  • ”The government’s agenda for change is exciting and
    I wish to be part of it”
  • “Incredibly bureaucratic – hard to achieve
  • “Social work is turning into brokerage – lots of my
    skills are not being used”
  • “Not enough direct work with children, little opportunity
    to do preventive work which would give families a better quality of
  • “Too much navel-gazing, not enough ‘getting the job
  • “Horrified by the standard of hospital care, and feel the
    task of changing it is too big for me alone”
  • “Fed up of feeling I have failed”
  • “Too tired!”
  • “Thought social work would be about counselling or
    actively helping, not assessing and filling out forms”
  • “Policies being led by finances”

Who would you prefer to work for?

1. Local authority – 57%
2. Voluntary organisation – 44%
3. Self employed – 28%
4. Out of social care – 23%
5. Academia – 22%
6. Further training or education – 21%
7. PCT – 20%
8. Central Government – 20%
9. NHS trust – 20%
10. Same job, more senior – 20%
11. Private sector – 18%
12. Health authority – 18%
13. Housing association – 11%

Amazingly enough, two thirds of people who already work for a
local authority would still prefer to work for one, over all other
options. This includes all levels of seniority, from frontline
social workers to area managers. However, directors would rather be
working elsewhere – nearly two thirds said they’d
prefer a voluntary employer.

Many private sector staff also want to swap employer, with
nearly half saying they’d rather be in a local authority.
Primary care trust staff, central government staff and housing
association staff are all divided, with a similar number saying
they’d stay where they are, as said they’d rather be in
a local authority. Voluntary sector employees also rate their own
sector highly, with 72 per cent saying they’d rather stay
with voluntary employers.

Worryingly, nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they’d
prefer to be doing something other than social care. Of these,
longer serving staff members (6 years plus) and front line social
workers were both more likely than average to say they wanted

While around two thirds of people said they were ‘keeping
an eye’ on the job market but not actively looking, just under one
fifth of all respondents were actively job hunting. Of these, part
time workers, senior social workers and social workers, private
sector employees and those working for PCTs were all over

The survey received 2,172 responses. These included full time
and part time staff, those newly arrived in post to those
who’d been there for 11 years and above. They covered all
levels of seniority, including 104 directors of social services,
750 middle and senior managers, and 711 social workers and senior
social workers. These staff came from local authorities, voluntary
sector organisations, private companies, central government, NHS
trusts, Primary Care Trusts, housing associations and other
companies in the sector.

A detailed breakdown of the findings

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