Sixty per cent of social care professionals work more than 40 hours a week, a joint Community Care and Unison survey has revealed.
Staff on average work five hours more than the 35 hours typically stated on contracts, according to our annual pay and conditions survey, which was based on responses from over 769 social care professionals across Britain.
Nearly a quarter of social workers reported working more than 45 hours a week. Employers were accused of “exploiting the goodwill of professionals” after findings showed that despite the long hours, just 40% of respondents received a pay rise. The majority – 54% – saw their pay frozen, while 6% experienced a pay cut.
Nearly three-quarters predicted they would face a pay cut or freeze in the next 12 months, as councils in England are forced to cut wages to deal with grant cuts of 28% over the next four years. Overall, 63% of our survey respondents expected a pay freeze for 2011 and 9% predicted a drop in salary.
The mean salary for social workers taking part in the survey, who had an average of 19 years’ experience in social care and mainly worked for councils, was £33,440.
Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social care, said the survey findings reflected poor working conditions which were having a “devastating impact on morale”.
“The findings from the survey are a stark warning of how overstretched staff already are,” she said.
“It is hard to see how staff are going to cope with cuts the scale of which we have never seen before. A toxic cocktail of long hours, wage freezes and cuts to terms and conditions risks having a devastating impact on morale.”
Pile urged employers to conduct “health checks” of social work teams, as recommended by the Social Work Reform Board, in light of the findings and said it was “more important than ever” for professionals to sign the joint Unison and Community Care Social Work Contract, which calls for guarantees on caseloads, supervision and training and development.
She added: “Staff are going to have to invoke their professional codes as well to speak up when service conditions place service users at risk or deny them their rights.”
A spokesperson for the Local Government Employers defended the pay freeze imposed on all council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this year.
“Local government employees were not given an increase in pay this year to help protect vital front-line services and mitigate the need for job losses,” he said.
“Social workers do a sterling job providing vital services, but we cannot escape the severe funding pressures all councils are facing.”
Staff expect pay to fall
Unison asked members why they expected to have a salary decrease in their next pay review. These are some of their responses
“Because there is a huge reduction in funding to local authorities and social care. We are being expected to take a change in pay and conditions, which may well include reductions in pay and benefits.”
“Pay won’t go up but living costs have and so this is a decrease.”
“The organisation has restructured. We only apply for a job on a lower grade within the organisation.”
“Reduction in car allowance and no pay rise will mean a pay decrease.”
“The lack of emphasis and value placed on working with young people who offend.”
“Because we have a government that is punishing local government workers for the failures and greed of Tory supporting bankers.”
Source for graphics: Unison/Community Care pay and conditions survey 2010
Graphics by Ciaran Hughes
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