Social care workforce
The social care/social services workforce is in a period of transformation. Councils have been contracting out many services to the voluntary and private sector. The government has put social work on an equal footing with other professions such as teaching. There is a social work degree, post-registration training and learning and a push towards more post-qualification training.
Regulatory bodies operate social work registers and codes of practice in the UK. These are the General Social Care Council in England; Care Council for Wales, the Scottish Social Services Council, and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council.
Staff can be admonished or removed from the register, which should prevent them from practising as social workers.
Social care employees must be checked with the Criminal Records Bureau.
Social work has protection of title, meaning that only a qualified social worker can be employed in the role. In addition to the regulatory bodies, there are also organisations with the remit of workforce development and planning. Skills for Carein England covers adults’ staff and there is also the Children’s Workforce Development Council.
Scotland carried out a large-scale review of social work and the General Social Care Council is currently conducting its inquiry into the roles and tasks of social workers in England, to report later in 2007. The Social work in Wales – a profession to value review looked at pay and professional development.
Social services staff numbers
The numbers of social workers in local authorities are growing in the UK and they are becoming better qualified. These are the main findings from staffing returns from the UK’s four countries. Women still make up more three-quarters of social services staff in the UK (figures to October 2005 unless otherwise stated)
Browse jobs in social care.
England (September 2006)
Staff in social services departments dropped by 1% between 2005 and 2006 and now stands at 213,300 (whole time equivalent, wte). This is also a decrease of 7% since 1997, although since 2001 the figure has been stable.
Half of the staff employed are part-time, down from 58% in 1998.
Staff break down into the following groups (wte):
• 20,600 central/strategic staff.
• 116,900 area and field work staff.
• 27,300 day care sector.
• 46,400 residential sector.
• 31,700 home care staff.
There were 40,100 (wte) social work staff of which 18,500 (46%) worked in children’s services, 8,800 (22%) adult services and 11,200 (28%) in health or specialist teams.
All social work sectors showed an increase in staffing with the overall total being 1,300 up on 2005.
In total, there are 76,300 qualified social workers in England according to the CSCI, which means that 36,200 registered social workers are in the voluntary or private sector.
Scotland (October 2006)
There were 41,343 (wte) social work services staff employed by Scottish councils. Four out of five staff were women and less than 1% were from ethnic minorities. This is a decline from 42,953 on the previous year.
Most staff (61%) worked with adults while 17% worked with children.
• Fieldwork staff accounted for 12,322 (wte) or 30% of the staff total.
• Residential staff (adults and children) accounted for 20% and day centre staff 10% of the total social work services staff.
• There were just under 5,000 qualified social workers (ie fieldwork staff) up from 4,760 in 2005.
• And 2,398 qualified fieldwork staff.
• Social work assistants accounted for 2,231 people.
Vacancy rate among social workers was 7.5%, which is down from the 10% in the middle of the decade.
Wales (March 2006)
There were 19,936 (wte) staff employed by social services departments which is a 0.5% increase in the previous year. This total breaks down into:
• 5,282 central and support staff
• 3,807 social work services
• 7,834 home care
• 6,108 day centres
• 3,319 day services
Among social services staff, there were just over 1,000 social work trainees and assistants, and 2,782 social workers (up by 200 on 2005) and team managers. Of the latter 95% had a professional qualification, while across all social services staff the numbers with a professional qualification rose form 37% to 40%.
Northern Ireland (March 2006)
There were 50,419 (wte) health and social services staff, which represents an increase by just over a 1,000 on 2005, which represents a 40% increase in the workforce since 1997. The numbers of social services staff are 4,696 (wte). and more than three-quarters were female.
• 1,459 qualified social workers. (Down from 1,691 in 2005).
• 214 unqualified social workers, and
• just over 600 senior social workers or team leaders. (Up from 486 in 2005).
• And just over 500 part-time social workers.
Care staff (day centres and residential) accounted for nearly 1,300 posts (wte)
There was a 4% vacancy rate in social services.
Source for statistics
Mark Ivory discusses a range of topics relating to the social care workforce in his Ivory Towers podcast
Vacancy rates tend to be highest in children’s services and often reflect regional differences. Vacancy rates in England for children’s services rose from 11.4 per cent in 2004 to 11.8% in 2005. Councils reporting recruitment difficulties rose from just under half in 2001 to 69% in 2005.
In Scotland, vacancy rates stand at 11 per cent for children’s, 12 per cent for adults, 13 per cent for generic and nine per cent for offender services.
There is a 3.2 per cent vacancy rate in Northern Ireland, which rose to just fewer than eight per cent in South and East Belfast Health and Social Services Trust.
Voluntary sector staff
More than half of the voluntary sector workforce is employed in social work related posts, according to the UK Voluntary Sector Workforce Almanac 2007.
Since 1996, the total workforce has grown by a quarter to 611,000 with social work related jobs increasing from 202,000 to 332,000 (54% of the total).
A third of all UK voluntary sector posts are in London and the South east, owing to the greater number of national and international organisations located there in these areas, says the study.
Breakdown by UK country of voluntary sector employees:
• England has 518,000
• Scotland 62,000
• Wales 17,000
• Northern Ireland 13,000
Social work-related roles
The study divides social work posts into those with accommodation and those without. Those without accommodation (which the study says covers non-residential jobs) rose from 149,000 in 1996 to 277,000 in 2005, an increase of 86%. Those social work jobs with accommodation remained about 54,000 in the period.
Other key findings were:
• There are 375,000 full time employees and 236,000 part-time; they work 38 hours and 18.5 hours a week respectively.
• 69% of voluntary employees are female compared with 64% in the public sector and 40% in the private.
• There are 111,000 disabled people in the sector an increase form 14% to 18% of the total workforce between 1996 to 2005. The employment rate is higher than both the private and public sectors.
The report finds that 20% of the sector works in “personal service occupations”, with “associate professional and technical” and “managers and senior officials” being the other two main categories of occupations. These occupations also include many social work related jobs. The report says: “More than four out of 10 voluntary sector workers (43%) work in ‘associate professional and technical’ or ‘managerial and senior official’ occupations. These are jobs such as health professionals, in child care and as social welfare professionals, for example, youth workers.”
Recruitment and retention
The study cites studies that show about a quarter of voluntary sector bodies says they have encountered recruitment difficulties, mainly citing lack of experience and skills as the cause. This tallies with organisations saying that they recruit about a quarter of their staff each year. The areas most difficult to fill were youth work; social and health care.
Staff turnover was on average about 22% (of which about two-thirds was voluntary moves) compared with an average of 22%.
The changing picture
The study finds that there has been an important transformation in the sector especially the social work occupations over the past 10 years and this is reflected in the workforce.
“They [employees] are now more likely to be employed in social work activities in a professional capacity and be highly skilled.”
The high numbers of part-time workers and the diffuse size of workplaces put a premium on planning and human resources management. With both the report is confident that the sector will grow and thrive
Report on the voluntary sector workforce at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and National Council for Voluntary Child Care Organisations websites.
Staff representation in councils and voluntary sector
Unison is the largest public sector union with over a million members and represents most social workers in local authorities and in other sectors. There is also the British Union of Social Work Employees, a small union mainly covering the non-statutory sector, which has merged with the union Community. The union Aspect has set up a social care section.
The British Association of Social Workers is a professional body, which supports, advises and campaigns for social workers in the UK. Members often have dual membership with a union.
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