The number of social workers preferring to work for agencies and in non-permanent roles has increased over the past two years from 12% in 2014 to 16% in 2016 according to Community Care research.
A survey of 1,351 social workers, undertaken last year, examined how social workers’ attitudes to job hunting have changed since a previous survey carried out in 2014.
It found that while the majority of social workers preferred permanent work this had dropped from 88% to 84% in line with the subsequent increase in those preferring agency work.
Many of those who expressed a preference for locum work cited a better work-life balance, better rates of pay and a greater ability to switch jobs if they feel unhappy with where they are working.
Flexibility and control
“The culture of places can change so quickly, [locum work] gives me the flexibility to move if it suddenly becomes oppressive,” a senior social worker in London said.
Another senior practitioner working in the Midlands added: “If I’m treated badly I can leave quickly.”
However, a social worker in the north-west of England pointed out: “I was locum for a while…liked the pay but didn’t feel like a proper part of the team.”
But security of permanent work remains attractive
Most social workers, it appears, still prefer the security of permanent work and the continuity it offers with service users.
“I like the security permanent work brings and enjoy building supportive longer-term relationships with my client group,” explained a senior social worker from South East England.
Other respondents noted that permanent jobs offer more benefits, such as pensions and paid holidays, and that it is easier to get a mortgage when employed rather than working as a locum.