Sharon Harper is a senior child protection social worker at Bexley Council, Greater London. She has held the position for a year, and before that was a locum social worker at the council for two years.
“Bexley had a recruitment drive so it was a case of leave or take a permanent post. I applied for a senior position and got it. It’s still a drop in salary of £6,000. But I decided to take it because it’s local. I didn’t want to spend three hours travelling to and from work, which is what I would have done if I’d got a job across the other side of London.
The pay is great in agency work and I really miss that but the insecurity is always there.
When I qualified a lot of people said to me not to go into agency work because you get thrown in the deep end. I took that advice and took a permanent post in Kent but I found that I could just not manage on the salary. I worked with a brilliant team but I left purely for financial reasons.
Agency workers do not have the same kind of status, even though the quality of their work may be high. There’s also not as much emphasis on supervision. That has an effect on the professional development of the worker.
Within a year of being at a local authority, newly qualified social workers can do their PQ1 – the first stage of the post qualifying award in social work. You will not have that as a locum unless you fund it yourself.
I know people who have been locums for 15 years. They like to be able to move to different authorities and try them out. But for me, I like to be in an area I know.”