A national pay structure for social workers in England moved a step closer after the idea won backing from an influential group of MPs and the Social Work Task Force said it would consider it.
In a report last week, the House of Commons’ children, schools and families select committee said salary progression for social workers was “slow and limited”. This led to high turnover as staff moved jobs in search of better pay or pressure to move into management.
The report of its three-month inquiry into the training of children and families social workers pointed out that a “more vigorous” national pay policy had “transformed the outlook for the teaching profession”.
It called for a national pay structure for social work, including “substantial improvements” in salary for experienced practitioners, with regional variations and a system of spinal points for extra skills and responsibilities.
In its interim report last week, the taskforce said social work needed a career structure that rewarded frontline expertise and was tied closely to training and development.
It said it would be looking at “how this should relate to arrangements for determining pay at a local or national level”.
The taskforce said it had evidence that pay was too low and variations between councils were causing retention problems as staff chased better salaries.
The reports reflect the findings of a recent survey of social care professionals by Community Care and trade union Unison. Average pay among respondents who had worked 18 years in the sector was just £32,000 a year.
The select committee also called for investment on a “substantial and sustainable scale” in frontline social work, while the taskforce said practitioners should be given the resources they needed to be effective. This included time to spend working directly with clients and also manageable workloads.