Rise in social workers quitting or switching jobs in adult services

NHS Digital report also finds shift of wider social care roles from councils to independent sector continues

Picture credit: emiliezhang/fotolia
Picture credit: emiliezhang/fotolia

Turnover among social workers in adults’ services rose last year, official figures reveal.

One in six (16%) social workers in English council adults’ services departments quit or changed their jobs in 2016, up from 13% the previous year, according to the latest NHS Digital report on social care staffing. Almost one in five social workers (19%) started their jobs within the year, up from 15% in 2015.

Adult services departments employed 16,100 social workers in 2016, the same as the previous year. The number of unfilled posts fell, with vacancy rates dropping from 12% in 2015 to 11% in 2016. The average social worker salary rose 1% in cash terms last year, from £32,800 in September 2015 to £33,100 in 2016.

The report found that the gradual shift of wider social care roles from councils into the independent sector continued. The number of adult services jobs within local authorities dropped 6%, from 120,200 in 2015 to 112,800 in 2016. More than three-quarters of posts across the adult social care workforce in England (78%) are now in the independent sector. Most councils attributed the reduction in posts to service closures or restructures. However, the vast majority of social worker jobs (86%) were in local authorities.

Margaret Wilcox, president elect of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said councils had had £5.5bn cut from their social care budgets since 2010. This figure represents both the impact of actual cuts to budgets as well as the rising costs to councils of maintaining services at existing levels resulting from inflation and demographic pressures.

“Despite these huge pressures, councils have sought to protect frontline social workers while seeking efficiency in management and outsourcing direct care provision,” she said.

“Care staff and social workers are pulling out all the stops to provide personal and dignified care to those who need it, with the report showing that nearly half (44%) of adult social care workers had no days off sick in a year.

“This significant fall in staff numbers is unsurprising and is due to the social care funding crisis which is failing to tackle the growing demand within local communities for care of people living longer and with increasingly complex needs.”

5 Responses to Rise in social workers quitting or switching jobs in adult services

  1. Bignev February 9, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    I wonder how many social workers leaving the service where by redundancy, afraid the old story of maintaining front line services is wearing a bit thin. Lots of councils have ageist attitudes towards their staff, seeking to employ newly qualified staff on of course lower salaries sacrificing older staff who have more experience and are not as easily led into what the council dictates how they want them to practice !

    • Social Worker February 10, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

      Councils dictating how they want social workers to practice? Yes, I expect so seen as they are paid for via council tax and accountable. Try getting a job in the private sector and telling them that you’ll do the job your way and not in accordance to how your employer wants you to.
      Agist? Well, let’s start by not assuming all NQSWs are younger than other social workers for starters. And then what about the possibility that NQSWs are possibly better quality than some social workers that have been around a while? Since when was ‘time served’ a measure of our effectiveness? In my experience the social workers who tend to be more fired up on tacking injustice and practicing rights based social work rather than just talk about it are absolutely NQSWs. What’s more they appear happier in their work, positive in their outlook and not hampered by the dogma of played out old politics that only ever kept us away from the people we pretended to be there for in the first place.

      • A Man Called Horse February 11, 2017 at 10:40 am #

        Hello Social Worker, really not sure which planet you do Social Work on? Social Work is not just about doing the job, it is about fairness, change and making a positive impact when working with vulnerable people. Having social consciousness is essential to do this job well. Just because I work for a Local Authority who pay my wages does not make me their pet to do with as they please. It is the duty of all social workers to challenge unfairness, challenge your employer to protect vulnerable people from policies such as Austerity that are destroying the lives of your fellow citizens. Services are being destroyed, experiences and committed staff are leaving the job some permanently because of the cuts and because of what they are seeing on the ground. Social Workers in case you haven’t noticed are changing how they work as a consequence of restructures, and ongoing cuts to budgets inflicted by a vicious and uncaring Tory Government. Austerity is being continued while at the same time you and me sir are being fleeced via Council Tax. Pay more for less being the mantra of the Tories. There is no war between NQSW and older more experienced staff, although I would say that the older Social workers have far more political awareness than younger newly qualified workers. The cuts are so severe that some Local Authorities may go bankrupt, broke and fail to meet the legal requirements set by Parliament, are you saying we should stand back and say nothing? Say nothing they will still come for you in time, better to stand and fight than live on your knees. Have an opinion be an agent of social change, not just a pen pushing Council worker. Learn to think that at the very least is what a University education should have done for you.

        • Social Worker February 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm #

          And you honestly believe that long serving adult social workers, fuelled on a diet of 30 years of care management, are rising up, overthrowing managerialism and challenging austerity from within their roles in Local Authorities? Who are the social workers who are standing and fighting? They aren’t the time-served social workers that I see. I don’t see them outside my Town/City Hall, fighting on their knees. Do you? However I do see a new breed of SW coming through. A type that to me look totally hooked up to a social conscience. But crucially their social conscience seems to be grounded in supporting people who are really struggling in such awful times. Listen to NQSWs. I’ve just been talking to some who see their role in the LA has part of the problem and are talking about diversifying and working in cooperatives. Their politics are real because they are focused on the person rather than the profession and a rhetoric that fails to resonate despite the intentions. And really if you are so convinced that you are not the puppet of your employer (incidentally, your service users will absolutely think you are) then send HR a quick email telling them that whilst your happy to be paid every month that because of your principles you will do the job your way and not as they instruct you and that you won’t work towards your councils savings targets.

    • Mel February 12, 2017 at 8:25 pm #

      Any long served social worker would surely be in a union and would know their own rights inside out seeing as our role is heavily based on understanding such systems. You can’t make anyone redundant and then employ someone else because they will be paid less, unless the actual role is redundant itself therefore no such thing as a like for like swap of social workers based on salary. I know the world isn’t always so rosy but that’s what employment tribunals are for.