Staff numbers decline but managers multiply

The number of social services staff in England has fallen by 7
per cent in the past 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.

Local government reorganisation and the greater use of the
independent sector are cited as possible reasons for the trend by
the DoH.

There were 217,200 social services staff in September 2000
(measured in whole-time equivalent numbers) compared with 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 past 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 9 per cent in the past 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 have
decreased by 18 per cent since 1995, with most of this occurring
within provision for the elderly mentally infirm. However,
specialist needs establishments have 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. “There continues to be an increase in the
number of services we purchase from external organisations,” said
Bill McKitterick, ADSS human resources committee chairperson. “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, also published last week, 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.

– DoH Bulletin 2001/16 Personal Social Services Staff of Social
Services Departments at 30 September 2000, England; available from

– Office for National Statistics, Economic Trends (No 571, June
2001); available from

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