Number of social services staff falls by 7 per cent

The number of social services staff in England has fallen by 7
per cent in the last five years, but the number of directors and
senior staff has risen by nearly 50 per cent over the same period,
according to new figures from the department of health,
writes Jonathan Pearce.

Local government re-organisation and the greater use of the
independent sector, are cited as possible reasons for the trends by
the DoH.

There were 217,200 social services staff in September 2000
(measured in whole-time equivalent numbers) compared to 233,900 in
1995. Field work and area office workers have fallen in line with
staffing as a whole, while day care staff numbers have remained
more or less constant. In contrast, central and strategic staff
have seen an overall increase of 4,100 staff between 1995 and

The most significant increase is that of senior directing staff
– by half, from 400 to 600 in the last five years. Similarly,
senior professional support has grown from 3,000 to 4,300

The figures also confirm general trends in social work. Numbers
of social workers have grown by nine per cent in the last five
years. About 40 per cent work with children, 23 per cent with
adults or older people and 29 per cent are employed in health
settings or specialist teams.

Within local authority residential provision, staff numbers
decreased by 18 per cent since 1995, with most of this occurring
within provision for the elderly/mentally infirm group. However,
specialist needs establishments had seen an increase of about
one-fifth in the same period.

The Association of Directors of Social Services said the figures
reflected an increasing externalisation of services, the
development of performance management work and general recruitment
and retention problems.

Bill McKitterick, ADSS human resources committee chairperson,
said: “There continues to be an increase in the number of services
we purchase from external organisations. We have to ensure we have
senior staff to commission and manage those external services.”

The DoH findings contrast with figures from the Office for
National Statistics showing an increase in the overall public
sector workforce between June 2000 and June 2001. The public sector
grew by 93,000 jobs, while the private sector increased by only
71,000, according to the ONS. However, the main growth was in the
education sector and the NHS, reflecting the government’s
recruitment drive for nurses and teachers.







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