Cuts in wages and rising living costs have left four in five social workers struggling to pay the bills, Community Care can reveal.
Our joint survey with the College of Social Work has shown that 78% of social workers face financial difficulties at least some of the time. Nearly two-thirds said rising living costs had eroded household income.
The price of goods, fuel and services is rising in the UK as inflation runs at 5%, but our survey found social workers’ salaries were lagging behind. More than one-third of social workers said their salaries had fallen over the past year and nearly half had faced a pay freeze.
“The message it risks sending is that social workers are not worth the money,” said Jamie Middleton, interim board member of the College of Social Work. “People are working very hard with limited resources; these cuts are not helping morale.”
Middleton said it was the wrong message to send at a time when efforts were being made by the College and others in the sector to raise the public standing of social work.
“We hear every day from social workers who have had their basic allowances cut. It represents a whittling away of the basic standards of financial support for social workers,” said Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers.
He said falling incomes were causing some social workers to question their future.
More than half the social workers surveyed said their disposable income, after bills and rent, had fallen by more than £200 in the past year. This had led 31% of social workers to sell high-value items, such as electrical goods and, in some cases, the family home.
Peter Hay, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said part of the problem was the lack of movement in the sector as councils axed vacant posts. This had led to less competition for jobs and stagnating salaries.
He said social work bosses should look for holistic solutions to their staff’s income issues. “You can’t just look at this problem from the position of wages,” he said, adding that councils should look at how to ease financial pressures on society as a whole, for example by providing more affordable housing.
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