Two in five social workers borrow money from family to make ends meet

As local authority cuts deepen, a Unison survey shows many social workers are feeling the double whammy of increasing pressure at work and mounting personal debt at home.

Picture credit: Action Press/Rex Features

Many social workers are struggling to make ends meet at home yet are forced to work unpaid overtime in order to cope with the rising demand on services, a survey by Unison has revealed.

Unison asked 1,052 social workers across the UK to describe their working conditions and financial situation since 2010. The respondents painted a picture of increased workloads and pressure, adding that while the number of frozen posts and redundancies has climbed, so too has the use of agency staff.

Three quarters of social workers said they regularly work overtime without pay or time off in lieu. Just under half (44%) work more than three hours of overtime per week, while 9.5% work more than six hours.

Nine out of 10 respondents said their stress levels have increased since 2010 – and most agreed that this was affecting both their job performance and their personal lives.

Household finances

Unison also asked how ongoing local government cuts were affecting social workers’ finances. More than half (59.8%) said their car allowance had been cut and a quarter (25.3%) said the same had happened to their basic pay. Almost three quarters disagreed with the statement: “I am paid fairly for the work I do.”

Two in every five social workers (42.4%) have had to borrow money from a family member to make ends meet and 10.5% have taken out, or considered taking out, a high interest pay day loan.

The majority (61.6%) have personal debts, and two thirds of those owe more than £10,000. However, most said they were still able to manage household costs, such as food and energy bills; albeit not with ease.

“These findings show the daily struggle social workers are experiencing as the cuts deepen,” said Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social care.

“The stress and long hours just to try and keep up with the work are bad enough. But on top of that the impact of a three year pay freeze and vicious cuts to pay and allowances are exacting severe financial strain on them and their families.

“It is simply not sustainable to expect dwindling numbers of staff to meet growing need for social work services in our communities.”

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