Most social workers expect to work beyond retirement age


Social workers expect pension contributions to increase and to work beyond the age of 65

Two-thirds of social care professionals expect to work past the current retirement age of 65 amid growing expectations that pension contributions will increase, Community Care can reveal.

The second instalment of our pay and conditions survey, carried out jointly with Unison, also throws new light on the popularity of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), with three-quarters of its members valuing their pension highly.

Nearly four in five of the 769 professionals who responded to our survey are LGPS members. Of them, 82% expect to increase their contributions, and only a quarter had taken out, or are considering taking out, an additional private pension.

Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social care, said the survey results showed why the union had prioritised the fight to retain current pension provision.

Unison graph

“It’s no surprise to find that people place a very high value on their pensions. It’s very important what we are able to do in the coming months with various attacks on pension benefits,” she said. “People in social work and social care don’t earn very competitive salaries and having that pension provision is a crucial part of their package.”

Pile insisted that while people expected their pension contributions to increase, they were not resigned to that happening.

Unison, alongside fellow unions Unite and GMB, last month issued a submission to Lord Hutton’s Independent Public Service Pensions Commission, in which it claimed that planned increases to employee contributions would lead many of the LGPS’s four million members to withdraw from the scheme.

Hutton is due to produce a final report by March, which will prove crucial in setting a direction for future public sector pensions. His interim report backed raising contributions, as a short-term measure.

Chancellor George Osborne subsequently proposed, in last year’s comprehensive spending review, to raise employee contributions by three percentage points to bring in an additional £1.8bn each year.

Independent pension consultant John Ralfe, who last month released a report claiming the LGPS’s deficit had increased from £42bn to £100bn over the past three years, predicted the LGPS would have to offer less generous terms to remain affordable to the taxpayer.

“We’ll continue to have a defined benefit scheme for the public sector, including local government but it will be less generous, with the amount people get in the end not so generous, and the amount being put in going up,” he said.

Source for stats: Unison/Community Care pay and conditions survey 2010, which had 769 respondents.


Promotion dismay

Dissatisfaction with promotion prospects has been uncovered by Community Care as the biggest council cutbacks in a generation begin.

While only 19% of professionals regard their promotion prospects with their current employer as being good, 34% describe them as poor. Perhaps unsurprisingly, two-thirds are actively seeking or browsing for new jobs.

However, more enthusiasm is shown by care professionals for other aspects of their jobs.

Half of social workers believe the quality of their supervision is good – with a similar proportion rating their salary highly. Only slightly fewer – 43% – regard their working conditions as good.

How would you cope working past the current retirement age?

“I already do and it’s no problem”

“As I am at the end of my career I would be very angry and a bit surprised if they stretched the retirement age. I am 57 – all my plans have been round reducing my hours and retiring at 60″

“I cannot envisage staying in frontline child protection work due to stress and overall demands of the job.

“I am 50 and find the role demanding, stressful and impacting on my health now so I cannot imagine how I will cope when I am 65-70 yrs old!”

“I will have to reduce my hours to part-time”

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