‘Agency work can be positive, but I’d go permanent tomorrow if the pay was better’

A social work team manager explains the benefits and pitfalls of being self-employed

self-employed
REX/Image Broker

I originally decided to become an agency social worker because I was tired of having to teach agency staff to do basic things, while they were getting paid double what I was as a permanent member of staff. But since I’ve started working for myself, I’ve discovered some unexpected benefits to social work without the employer.

Making the leap to go agency wasn’t easy. I was always scared of the prospect of not being a permanent staff member. You’ve got to set up a limited company which can take weeks to do, and you no longer have an employer, the same level of job security, holiday pay or sick leave. I was motivated to do it at first because living in London, having a mortgage and wanting to be able to save a bit of money was proving too gruelling on a permanent social worker’s salary.

But for all the fear factor, going agency has turned out to be a positive experience. In my local authority I’m treated more or less like a permanent staff member when it comes to training, and I now earn enough to pay for extra training myself if I want it.

Since I’ve gone agency I’ve progressed from a senior social worker to a team manager role. If I was permanent I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to do what I’m doing now.  When you’re permanent you’re involved a lot more with the bureaucracy and the office politics, whereas when you’re agency you just come in and you do your job.

As a permanent member of staff you’re very entrenched in everything that’s going on and that means sometimes you feel things more. I’m a lot more relaxed than when I was permanent. I know that at any point if I wanted to I could leave within a week and get a new job.

However, despite having moved over to working for an agency, I really do promote permanency and I think it’s important for local authorities. Having a lot of agency social workers who up and leave in the middle of working with a child can be dangerous,  and it leaves that child’s life in a mess.

If local authorities want a stable workforce, they need to be paying their permanent social workers more. It doesn’t make any sense to me that a council can waste so much money on agency staff and not pay their permanent workforce properly.

I don’t plan to be agency forever. One day I’ll want to have children, and when that time comes I’d like more stability. If I could earn what I do now as an agency worker in a permanent role, I’d go back tomorrow. But for now, agency work is the right choice for me.

More from Community Care

One Response to ‘Agency work can be positive, but I’d go permanent tomorrow if the pay was better’

  1. Stuart Hunter December 17, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    There are many benefits from being an agency Social Worker including the Holiday pay that was mentioned in this article. You can work as a PAYE and accrue Holiday as an agency worker and Limited Company agency workers also get their holiday wrapped up into their rate. As an agency recruiter I agree that better benefits to the permanent worker would attract more candidates to take on perm roles. I am aware of many Locum QSW’s that have found their Permanent position having worked within the authority as a locum first, this approach offers a “try before you buy” scenario.