Children’s and Youth Workers

We examine the size, structure and professional development of children and youth workers workforce. Please also read our expert guide to the social care workforce for an overall examination of the social care workforce.

Children’s workforce

There were nearly 170,000 people involved in working with children in England in 2006, according to the Children’s Workforce Development Council.

In local authorities this included:
• 46,700 (full time equivalent) in local authorities
• 5,500 agency staff, which cost about £110m and accounts for 13% of the workforce.
• 5,000 education welfare officers, just under 2,000 children’s guardians and about a 1,000 Ofsted inspectors also work in the sector.
The CWDC estimated that another 96,400 LA staff may also work with children in head offices, generic or health settings and other specialised groups.

Non-statutory sector included:
The non-statutory (voluntary and private sector) children’s workforce split into 25,000 staff in 1,300 residential homes and about 7,000 in fostering and adoption practices. However the CWDC points out that information about the private sector is patchy and is most likely an underestimate.
There were also 37,000 foster families and about 2 million volunteers.

Recruitment and Retention
Since 2005, vacancy rates have fallen although council reporting recruitment difficulties stayed the same (about two-thirds). For example, field social workers vacancy rates were 9.5% and turnover 9.6%, down from 11.8% and 11% respectively.
Vacancy rates in residential homes were 5.6% in private sector and 7.9% in the voluntary sector.
Turnover was far higher in non-statutory sector than in councils. Private sector turnover averaged 23% and 13% in voluntary sector, with career development and personal reasons being the two main reasons for leaving a job.

Between 2001-6, there was a big rise in pay for residential care staff (34%), managers of residential home managers (27%) and social workers (26%). Salaries now average between £35,000 and £37,000 for home managers and team leaders.
About 10 to 15% of posts had market supplements and a fifth of social work jobs had been regraded in the previous year.
Staff in the private sector tended to earn between 7% and 12% more than their voluntary sector colleagues, although the report did not make a comparison with council staff.
There are also several important changes to the workforce occurring including registration, development of posts such as lead professional and piloting of roles to free up more time to spend with children.
To track the effectiveness of these changes, the CWDC said that it must develop more research into the children’s workforce particularly the private sector to ensure a better fit between the workforce and the needs and outcomes of children.

Youth work workforce

There were 9,918 (FTE) staff working in responding services in 2006-7, according to research by the National Youth Agency audit. This was a fall of by just over 300 on the previous period 2005-6. Another 7,480 worked in delivery services (professional youth workers, and qualified and support staff) again down by just over 3000 on the previous period.

Overall the NYA found that councils employed 3,169 professional qualified youth workers (FTE) – a fall of 3% in the previous period.

The Community and Youth Workers Union (now part of Unite) research estimates that there are another 17,000 support workers (of which half are qualified) with about 1,500 students recruited to the sector each year.

The CYWU says that nearly two-thirds of workers are female, just under a third are from ethnic minorities, and 18% disabled. About 65% of all youth workers are part-time although there are fears that this may fall.

Staff development

Like other sections of the social care workforce, youth workers are experiencing restructuring in training with the introduction of integrated qualifications framework, youth work occupational standards and the introduction in 2010 of a degree-level profession.

CWYU research found that 39 councils had established an integrated youth support service (IYSS) out of 107 that replied to the survey. Another 43 councils were in the process of establishing an IYSS.

The research, carried out by the Labour Research Department, found various models of IYSS with integration with Connexions and youth service being the most common but other arrangements including integration with sexual health services, school support services, youth offending teams and substance misuse teams.

LRD Interim Summary Research

How the roles are changing

New AssetNewly qualified social worker pilots
The Children’s Workforce Development Council has begun a consultation to shape the three-year pilot programme to support newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) in children’s services.

It wants to develop outcome statements outlining what skills, knowledge and experience NQSWs should be able to demonstrate by the end of their first year of practice.

More on this story

Advanced social workers
The CWDC is also consulting on plans for a new advanced social worker status in children’s services. It has written to all children’s services directors in England to ask for their views, in particular what it would mean for practitioners taking on the role and whether it should be related to a qualification or status.

The advanced social worker status would complement the newly-qualified social worker programme, which is being piloted in September, in line with the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ aim of creating better career pathways for the profession.

Children’s social workers are subject to the same registration and sanctions as adults’ workers.
Go to our expert guide for social care workforce for more

Staff representation in councils and voluntary sector
Unison is the largest public sector union with over a million members and represents most social workers in local authorities and in other sectors. The British Union of Social Work Employees, a small union mainly covering the non-statutory sector, has now  merged with the union Community. The union Aspect has set up a social care section.

There is also the Community and Youth Workers Union which represents youth workers. It has now merged with Unite 

The British Association of Social Workers is a professional body, which supports, advises and campaigns for social workers in the UK. Members often have dual membership with a union.

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