Social work numbers maintained amid wider adult care cuts

The number of adults social workers employed by councils remained stable last year despite widespread fears over job cuts and a drop of almost 10 per cent in the overall adult care workforce.

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The number of adults social workers employed by councils remained stable last year despite widespread fears over job cuts and a drop of almost 10 per cent in the overall adult care workforce.

Data from the NHS Information Centre’s Personal Social Services: Staff of Social Services Departments report shows that 12,320 adults social workers worked for local authorities in July 2011, a fall of just five jobs from the previous year. While social work jobs remained stable, the overall adult social care workforce saw the number of jobs fall from 166,520 in 2010 to 151,945 in 2011 – a drop of 8.8 per cent.

The report also revealed that, accounting for inflation, councils cut spending on adult social care by 1.2 per cent in 2010/11 – the first real term fall in spending since the NHS Information Centre started collecting the data in 2000/01. Older people over 65, including physically disabled adults and adults with mental health needs, were hardest hit, with a fall of about two per cent. Adults with learning disabilities were the only group to see a rise in expenditure.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: “Today’s figures show spending on adult social care services in England fell by one per cent last year, when the effect of inflation is removed; the only year-on-year fall in the report’s 10 year time series.”

The news that the number of social worker jobs, which the report says command an average salary of £31,200, remained stable suggests the profession escaped the worst effects of the spending cut last year.

But the findings comes amid fears of continued cost pressures on councils this year. Last month Community Care revealed that Hertfordshire Council is to cut seventy three full-time equivalent posts, including 22 registered social workers’ jobs, in a bid to save £1.4m in 2012/13. The council attributed the move to the success of the county’s reablement team in cutting caseloads. The news followed warnings from the College of Social Work that some councils are wrongly viewing social workers as an ‘optional extra’ as they roll out personal budgets amid ‘a toxic mix of cuts and mistaken ideas about personalisation.’

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