To coincide with our new-look magazine and website, Community Care surveyed more than 1,000 social workers to find out about their working lives, their views on the profession and their thoughts on recent developments in social policy.
The survey, sponsored by the British Association of Social Workers, was emailed to children’s social workers and adults’ social workers across the UK, asking questions ranging from “How many hours a week do you work outside your official hours?” to “Will social work as a distinct discipline exist in five years time?”
The survey results, published here for the first time, paint a complex picture of a proud profession, worried about the future and concerned about many key areas of social policy.
• Half of social workers do five or more hours’ overtime every week (50.17%). This rises to 57.4% for children’s social workers.
Admin v client contact
• Three-quarters of social workers spend more than 40% of their time on admin work as opposed to in direct contact with clients (75.38%). More than a third spend over 60% of their time on admin (34.49%).
Membership of profesional bodies
• One in five social workers is a member of BASW (21.66%). Half belong to no professional body (52.7%).
Post registration training and learning
• Almost 6 out of 10 social workers find it somewhat or very difficult to take five days out of their normal working year to complete the necessary PRTL (59.1%).
Proud of the profession?
• The vast majority of social workers are proud to work in social care (82.99%).
• Nearly three-quarters of social workers feel worried or negative about the future of social work (72.45%). Just over a quarter are positive or excited (27.55%).
Leaving the profession
• A quarter of social workers are thinking of leaving the social care profession (24.68%). Three-quarters are not (75.32%).
• The top three things that would persuade those thinking of leaving to stay are:
1. Less paperwork and more client contact (67.53%).
2. More resources (61.25%).
3. Better pay (59.04%).
• Half of social workers are now co-located with other professionals from health, housing, education etc (50.45%). Co-location is more commonplace in children’s services (58.82%) than adults’ services (43.27%).
• Seven out of 10 social workers are confident that registering social care workers with the General Social Care Council will raise standards in social care (70.7%) – although most predict it will take a long time.
• Just under two-thirds of social workers think registering social care workers with the GSCC will raise the profile of social care as a career and improve the status of people who work in social care (63.34%).
Will social work survive as a distinct discipline?
• Four out of 10 adults’ social workers think social work as a distinct discipline will probably or definitely not exist in five years’ time (40.85%). This falls to three out of 10 children’s social workers (31.03%). Overall, 36.3% of social workers think social work probably or definitely won’t exist as a distinct discipline in five years’ time.
• Opinion is split among social workers as to whether multi-agency working will dilute social work values (28.8%) or result in them influencing other professionals’ work (46.76%), with adults’ social workers being slightly more sceptical than children’s social workers.
• More than half of children’s social workers think the introduction of the lead professional and budget-holding lead professional roles is bad for social workers (52.4%). However, more than six out of 10 think introduction of the roles is good for service users (62.88%).
• Six out of 10 adults’ social workers think the direct payments and In Control agendas are good for social workers (59.53%). Eight out of 10 think the agendas are good for service users (80.4%).
• More than two thirds of children’s social workers are positive about the development of a national database for children, with 14.55% saying it will aid joint working and lead to earlier intervention, and 53.69% saying it probably will.
• More than two-thirds of social workers are now using electronic records (67.91%). This figure is slightly higher for children’s social workers (70.47%) than adults’ social workers (65.74%).
• Half of children’s social workers think Sure Start has been fairly or very effective in protecting the welfare of children (49.59%). Three out of 10 think it has not been very effective or not effective at all (29.75%).
• Opinion is split among children’s social workers about the impact the appointment of a children’s commissioner has had on children’s rights, with half saying it has had a fairly or very positive impact (50%), and 44% saying it has had no impact (44.23%).
Children with disabilities
• Almost three-quarters of children’s social workers rate the availability of good quality education in mainstream schools for children with disabilities as fairly or very poor (73.67%).
Every Child Matters
• More than seven out of 10 children’s social workers think the Children Act 2004/Every Child Matters agenda is having fairly or very positive impact on preventive services (71.86%). One in five say it is having no impact (20.56%).
• More than eight out of 10 children’s social workers rate government policy on the treatment of young offenders as fairly or very poor (81.2%).
• More than three-quarters of adults’ social workers rate government policy on the care of older people as fairly or very poor (77.82%).
• More than six out of 10 adults’ social workers rate government policy on the care and protection of vulnerable adults as fairly or very poor (62.87%).
Employment support for disabled people
• More than three-quarters of adults’ social workers rate employment support for disabled people as fairly or very poor (77.11%).
• More than three-quarters of adults’ social workers think Valuing People has had a fairly or very positive impact on the lives of people with learning difficulties (75.8%).
Mental Health Bill
• Opinion is divided among adults’ social workers about the impact the latest Mental Health Bill will have on civil liberties, with 41.4% predicting it will have a fairly or very positive impact and 51.39% predicting it will have a fairly or very negative impact.
• Opinion is divided among adults’ social workers about the impact the latest Mental Health Bill will have on race equality in mental health services, with four out of 10 predicting it will have a fairly or very positive impact (39.25%) and the same number predicting it will have a fairly or very negative impact (40.38%).
Our Health, Our Care, Our Say
• The vast majority of adults’ social workers predict that the aspirations of Our Health, Our Care, Our Say will be delivered with great or some difficulty without extra resources (97.05%).