Pay for London-based social workers has risen more than five times as much as staff working in some other regions, new figures reveal.
The average salary for social workers in the capital rose from £36,500 in 2012 to £40,500 in 2015, an 11% increase. Social workers outside of London saw salaries rise an average of 4.7% over the same period.
Practitioners in the south east received the lowest average salary increase of 1.8%, as pay rose from £32,500 to £33,100.
As a result the salary gap between London and the second highest paying region, the East of England, has increased from £4,000 in 2012 to £7,100 in 2015.
The figures, published by Skills for Care as part of its annual state of the social care workforce report, cover social workers employed by statutory adult services.
Official data collected by the Office for National Statistics on earnings across sectors show that the average rise in London salaries over the four-year period was 1.3%, far lower than that seen in social work.
Skills for Care found there were an estimated 18,500 social work jobs in 2015, with the vast majority (16,100) in local authorities and a further 1,000 in the independent sector. Social workers accounted for 13% of the statutory workforce in 2015, up from 10% the previous year.
While the number of social work jobs had remained consistent between 2012 and 2015, vacancy rates rose from 7.3% to 13.1% over the four years – partly as a result of councils creating more social work posts to deliver the Care Act – and turnover increased from 9.8% to 13.4%.
Just over a fifth of social workers (22%) were aged 55 or over and could retire in the next 10 years, the report said. Meanwhile 19% of social workers had been in their roles for under a year, with a “large proportion” likely to be newly qualified.
The report warned of recruitment and retention problems with care workers. The turnover rate of directly employed staff working in adult services was 27.3% in 2015, with care worker and registered nursing roles the worst affected.
“This may indicate that employers are struggling to find and recruit suitable people to the sector. A large proportion of staff turnover is a result of people leaving the sector soon after joining and the sector also has difficulties in retaining younger workers,” Skills for Care said.