Social work jobs

The size of the UK social care workforce
There are about 600,000 social care staff employed in local authorities and the voluntary sector in the UK.

Across all four countries of the United Kingdom there are just under 300,000 social services staff working for local authorities, and about 311,000 voluntary sector staff (see NCVO research) employed in social work. Information on staff in private settings is very patchy but there has been a big decline in statutory domiciliary care, as much of it is outsourced to the private sector.

It is estimated that there are just under 100,000 registered social workers in the UK of which about half are working in the statutory sector.
Total workforce in the UK is about 29m, so social care UK jobs in the voluntary and local government sectors account for about 1 in 48 and social work posts are about one in 300 of the UK workforce.

For more on social care workforce

Vacancies and turnover.
Recruitment and retention are showing signs of improvement: field social workers had vacancy rates of 9.5% and turnover 9.6% in 2006, which was down from more than 11% in the previous year).

Vacancy rates in residential homes were 5.6% in private sector and 7.9% in the voluntary sector. Private sector turnover averaged 23% and 13% in voluntary sector, with career development and personal reasons being the two main reasons for leaving a job.

UK Workforce hub

For more of a breakdown by region and sector

Advertised jobs
Last year there were 12,550 social work jobs advertised in Community Care (7,570) and the Guardian (4,980), which are the two main UK publications that carry social work and social care jobs. The total comprised: 7,008 in local authorities and 4,713 in voluntary and private sectors. (Source: Media Monitoring Services).

The three main areas for recruiting staff were: children 6,975 jobs; mental health 3,235; and 960 in older people’s services.

These figures represent a large decline from the earlier part of the decade when there was a boom in social work jobs because of important government legislation such as Quality Protects and Supporting People.

For example in 2001 (the height of the boom in social work jobs), 25,983 jobs were advertised in local authorities and the voluntary sector.

• 13,387 jobs were advertised in local authorities, which broke down into 6,163 posts in children’s services and 2,454 in mental health.
• There were 9,121 posts advertised in the voluntary sector in 2001 including 2,991 in residential settings.
• There were also 9,000 posts advertised in housing services.

Recruitment web sites

More and more jobs are going online and social care is no different. Community Care carries the majority of social work job advertising with currently 4,950 jobs on its website at to This more than three times greater than its nearest competitor.

For jobs information including specialisms, regions and salary

The website also allows social workers to upload their CVs.

If you plan to recruit to your organisation go to or ring 020 8652 8870

Use and cost of social work agency staff

An estimated 12,527 agency workers were working within local authorities at 30 September 2005. This equates to 5.8% of the total workforce (20.6% in London), which cost an estimated £255m or 4.2% of payroll.

This split into an estimated 6,925 long-term agency workers and 5,602 short-term agency workers working in all local authorities.

Long-term agency staff were used were children’s social workers (30%), other social workers (20%) and administrative staff (14%). The main jobs for which short-term agency staff were used were care staff in elderly people’s homes (49%) and home care staff (26%).

Research from the CWDC says that in 2007 councils employed 5,500 agency workers in children’s services costing £110m.

Advertising costs
In the six months from April to September 2005 – the last period for which there are figures – councils in England and Wales spent £15.7m in recruitment advertising down from £19m in 2004. When averaged for the year this figure accounts for 0.5% of payroll costs with councils each spending on average about £210,000.
(Adult, Children and Young People local authority social care workforce survey 2005)

Of the £15.7m, £7.7 million was spent on recruitment advertising in children’s services while £8 million was spent on recruitment advertising on adults’ services. Recruitment advertising for children’s services ranged from £185,000 in the North East to £1.7million in London. Recruitment advertising for adults’ services ranged from £208,000 in the North East to £1.6 million in the West Midlands.

Government recruitment campaigns

The Department of Health hosts a social care and social work career information website, which offers advice jobs, training, careers and much more in the sector. The DH also runs recruiting campaigns for social care and social work jobs. Go to or ring 0845 604 6404

Further information

For more on social care and social work workforce

For more on children’s and young people’s social care workforce

More from Community Care

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