Nearly two thirds of children’s social workers who left their council for a known location last year most likely quit frontline social work in England, government data has suggested.
The data analysis, published yesterday by the Department for Education (DfE), is the first attempt to analyse where social workers go when they leave local authority social work.
It showed that, of the 684 social workers who left a local authority between September 2013 and September 2014 to a known location, 64% left English social work. As a new data collection, the figures were presented as “experimental statistics”.
Social workers may have moved on to a non-social care role or out of employment, or taken a career break or any role outside England, the research stated.
They may also have passed away, changed their working pattern, or were categorised as ‘other’ by their local authority.
Two fifths of the 1,140 leavers analysed – from 37 local authorities who responded – had unknown destinations, which could mean the percentage who left social work is even higher.
Local authorities estimated a shortfall of over 4,500 social workers, needed to fill positions vacant at the end of September 2014. The figures showed 71% of the 4,430 agency social workers employed in local authorities were being used to cover these vacancies. The full-time equivalent social worker vacancy rate across England was 15%.
Nushra Mansuri, a professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, said the figures should raise concerns about attrition rates of social workers and called for the figures to be analysed robustly. “Of those people who left we should be asking questions, such as how long were they in practice?” she said.
Findings from the social work reform board, Mansuri explained, show how burnout rates are high meaning local authorities are losing newly qualified social workers very quickly.
Reacting to figures that show most social workers are leaving their local authority roles within 0-5 years, Mansuri said: “It’s bad on so many levels, it’s bad economically. The state puts money into training programmes, there’s an investment there, but this isn’t a good return on the investment.”
“I think it links with career structure and progression. There are lots of reasons why social work in local authorities is really quite fraught and frenetic, it’s no wonder people need to leave after those periods of time,” she added.
A DfE spokesperson said it was encouraging that “more high quality recruits than ever” are being attracted to social work, as part of the department’s long term plan to overhaul the social work profession.
Community Care is running a conference on protecting the frontline against burnout: creating cultures to promote resilience and wellbeing for social care and health professionals. It will be held on 10 March in Central London.