First increase in social work vacancies for four years sees one in 10 posts vacant

Community Care’s annual survey finds similar rises in vacancies across both children’s and adults social care

empty chairs
Empty seats: almost 1 in 10 posts vacant Photo: flickr/ John Haslam

The number of social work vacancies has risen sharply over the past year, after four years of being in decline.

Community Care’s annual investigation has revealed the number of social work posts vacant in September this year stood at almost 10% (9.5% in children’s services and 9.4% in adults services).

This is similar to rates seen in 2010 and represents a 6.5% average increase in vacant posts across the 131 councils that responded to the freedom of information request. Vacancy rates have previously been falling year on year since 2010.

New pressures on services including preparing for the Care Act and coping with the rise in Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) assessments may have accounted for the spike in adults’ services vacancies, but the parallel rise in children’s services has left directors baffled.

Dave Hill, workforce development chair for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said the reverse in the vacancy rates’ downward trend in children’s services defied logic.

“Why it would have gone into reverse just this year is difficult to fathom.

“Moving in the wrong direction is a worrying trend. The ADCS will work carefully to try and understand what has caused the position to deteriorate rather than continue to improve,” he said.

Hill said the increase in vacancies in children’s teams would be hurting councils financially as expensive agency staff would have to be used to cover cases.

“Agency staff generally cost between 20 and 30% more than permanent staff so councils will have to find more money somewhere or they won’t be able to afford to fill all their vacancies.

“That will have a detrimental effect on services.”

Although an ageing workforce, in which older and more experienced staff are retiring and leaving a skills gap, could be a  factor behind the rise, Hill said this alone did not  explain the current situation given the numbers of social workers coming out of training.

“There are more social workers coming out of training. Many of these now have up to five years’ experience.”

In adults’ services, however, there are a combination of factors that may have led to the rise in vacancy rates according to Association of Directors of Adults’ Services (ADASS) president David Pearson.

“Authorities are looking at their overall structure in relation to the Care Act. This is leading to people holding vacancies while they establish what their permanent structure will be.”

“Some of the vacancies are actually more jobs being created that haven’t been filled yet,” said Pearson.

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9 Responses to First increase in social work vacancies for four years sees one in 10 posts vacant

  1. Vita La Porta November 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    In light of the shortage of social workers there are many newly qualified social worker such as myself who are having difficulty getting a job because of the perception that we will need additional support. I appreciate that in my post qualifying year I will not have the experience of social workers that have been in post for some years but I do bring with me a large amount of pre-qualifying experience and up-to-date knowledge which would be beneficial to the children and families being supported and the social work department as a whole. I believe with the right support post qualifying social workers can fill the vacancy gap currently being faced so social work departments should look at recruiting and supporting us through their ASYE program.

  2. Vera November 14, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    As an ex local authority SW I believe many SW’s leave local authority due to them not receiving the support they need and in my case the lack of supporting staff to move from teams to enable them to gain experience in other teams! No thanks for loyal hard working staff

  3. Katie November 15, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    They are baffled by the rise in children services?! If they spoke to any frontline social worker in child protection, they would easily find their answer. Huge caseloads and no time to do the work.

  4. Tom Hughes November 16, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    The ones who are qualifying don’t need to stay. Many of the new grads are either MA students or those who took the profession as a 2nd career.

    They are not trapped and in my experience many will leave due to the poor treatment of staff and other stresses associated with these roles.

    I love my job but in terms of status and pay it is the worst value in monetary terms I have had.

  5. Yamis November 18, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    During 2010 i worked for three months as there were no jobs available due to job cuts wnen the tory/col government came into power.For weeks months years i was on the phone to social care agencies looking for employment, but they were all giving the same answers,(NO JOBS AVAILABLE). I enjoy working as a social worker, but was pushed out of the profession by the powers that be. Since 20013/14 there are more social work jobs available,but managers are refusing to employ s/workers who has been unemployed through no fault of their own.I would suggest managers give these s/workers a chance into getting back into the profession, most of these individuals are,reliable do their jobs to the best or their ability,most are mature and has been in the buisness for years,and need to regain their independence and take care of their family.

    • Dave H November 19, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

      *What Yamis said.*

      I can’t get a start for love or money as a Care/Support worker even though I’ve looked after my late mother for almost 17 years during which time she had various illnesses and ailments, the main ones being bone marrow cancer and arthritis

      The thing is I don’t have to work because my mother left me reasonably well off, but I would like to do something useful like helping people to pass some time away.

      Don’t think I’ll bother looking much more as I feel that I’m wasting my time.
      I’ve saved the government thousands of pounds or so I’m told by being a home carer ,but I feel like I’ve just been chucked onto the scrapheap.

      No NVQ’s = no chance in my book.

  6. tracey mcintyre November 19, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    There is no surprise with continual cuts being made by councils due to the shortfall in budgets.

  7. julie November 19, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

    The recruitment and retention problem in childrens services is not surprising. I walked away from social work last year after a 16 year career in front line child protection. I loved my job and would readily work 10 – 12 hours a day. T. s was until the caseloads become unmanageable and ultimately dangerous. More time was spent at my desk than with families and the feeling that you had done something to help a child became a distant memory.

    This year I sadly and very reluctantly decided to withdraw my registration. I believe many social workers now only do the job because they are tied in with their pensions as well as a concern that they would struggle to get another job. The recruitment and retention problem will only get worse unless someone is willing to get a firm grip of the profession and ensure that standards for children are being met and maintained and social workers are given the respect they deserve from their managers.I

  8. Edward November 19, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    Social Workers should be autonomous to a degree, but as is often the case without any support or indeed regular supervision, just the risk of blame when targets are not met or mistakes are made due to increasing assessments being placed on Practitioners. The blame culture that all to often exists in some statutory agencies does nothing to promote the employment of practitioners and indeed drives away experienced and good practitioners, even if on occasion these events are engineered to do so. Promotion prospects can be limited for the amount of study and work put into a career, Again this also can depend on the face fit factor which also appears to occur, Promoting the profession means supporting practitioners and that includes the responsibility of managers as well.