Nearly one out of every 10 social workers is looking for a job outside the profession because of factors including stress and high caseloads, an in-depth study into social worker job-seeking by Community Care and advertising agency TMP has found.
The study surveyed 2,100 social workers and found that 8% were looking to leave the profession. Of those looking to leave social work, 23% said the job was too stressful or affecting their health while 20% cited high caseloads.
Others talked of too much paperwork (17%), not spending enough time with clients (14%) and the impact of budget cuts (12%).
“I love social work but sharing people’s misery is becoming too much,” one local authority social worker told the study.
Another said: “I am sick to death of tokenism, political correctness, risk averse, process-led and incompetent management driven only by the need to appease Ofsted.”
Even those not intending to leave social work said the stress of the job is taking its toll with 94% saying there is more day to day pressure on social workers than ever before.
“My stress levels are perpetually too high and my mental and physical health suffers as a result,” said one social worker. “Most nights I wake up in the night worrying about work I have not had time to do. I struggle to enjoy life outside work as I’m so exhausted.”
The study also asked social workers what attributes would most tempt them to jump ship to another social work job.
Almost half (49%) said a better work-life balance while 48% cited better pay. Opportunities for new challenges or experiences was mentioned by 44% and 39% said a job that involved less stress.
Just over half of social workers (52%) would consider relocating for a job.
In-depth interviews with 20 social workers carried out for the study revealed that poor management is often a reason why they would consider hunting for a new post.
A lack of experienced staff on teams was also cited as a reason to leave.
One social worker said: “There are so many inexperienced staff here I feel that it’s dangerous and I don’t want to be exposed to that.”
For social workers who wanted to remain with their current employer, respectful and supportive management was a common reason as was having opportunities for career development and a good team ethic.
“I work with a great team and a great manager,” said one. “I feel more loyal to them; if the team changed, I’d feel differently.”
Yet even when offered a new job many social workers turned it down.
Just over a quarter (26%) of social workers surveyed, who had been offered another job in the past three years, decided to stay where they were.
Of those who rejected the chance to change jobs, 28% said they were concerned about starting a new job during a recession while 9% stayed because they were offered a promotion.
Another 6% said they turned down the job offer because of a pay increase.