Aspect stokes social worker pay scale row

Allowing councils to set social workers' pay through existing grading schemes is "doomed to failure", trade union Aspect has said.

Allowing councils to set social workers’ pay through existing grading schemes is “doomed to failure”, trade union Aspect has said.

Aspect believes the current job evaluation schemes used by councils undervalue social workers’ skills and responsibilities. It has lobbied for a national pay scale for practitioners to bring the profession into line with the police and NHS. However, this move was ruled out by the National Joint Council, the negotiating body for local government pay, in a report published last month.

Local Government Employers, Unison, Unite and GMB concluded that maintaining the current systems would help to avoid a “silo mentality of separate services” among practitioners.

But Roger Kline, social care spokesperson for Aspect, said revising job descriptions would fail to address the problem. The existing pay structures were “fundamentally flawed” because they attached importance to the size of teams and budgets rather than knowledge and experience.

“Analysis of the two main job evaluation schemes in use in local government suggests they are a major cause of the underpayment of social workers as they understate their skills and responsibilities,” Kline said.

“Seeking fairer implementation of the existing schemes is doomed to failure as it assumes no need to make substantial changes to the job evaluation schemes themselves.

“Social workers deserve a grading structured, properly paid, which reflects the demands of the job. That is not going to happen while social workers’ pay is tied to everyone else’s in local government.”

The final report of the Social Work Task Force acknowledged some job evaluation exercises had “under-rated” social workers’ knowledge and skills which led to them being paid less than comparable professions.

The taskforce called on employers to review their job evaluation of basic grade social workers to ensure that their knowledge and skills were being fairly rewarded. It added that, if the current national agreement on local government pay failed to deliver improvements, the government should consider whether a national pay body was needed to ensure social workers were fairly rewarded.

The National Joint Council has yet to respond.

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