Government figures reveal average social worker caseload

New statistics released by the government also show the number of vacancies in children's services

Photo: Konstantin Yuganov/Fotolia

The average caseload of a children’s social worker is 17.8, government statistics have revealed.

The latest set of children’s social work workforce statistics , published today, said 17,840 social workers (including agency workers) held 317,690 cases in children’s services at 30 September 2017.

This is the second year the government have estimated the average social worker caseload, but the first time the stats had been collected at an “individual social worker level”.

“Average caseload varied between local authorities, between 10.2 for Kingston upon Thames and Richmond upon Thames, to 26.4 for Staffordshire.

“Some of this variation may be down to differing local practices in case management, with some local authorities raising this as an issue during the collection,” said the release.


The statistics, which the Department for Education has designated as “experimental”, also revealed a count of 5,820 social worker vacancies at the end of September 2017, a 5% increase from the same point in 2016. The vacancy rate reported by local authorities remained the same at 17%.

There were “large” regional variations in the number of vacancies, the figures found, with an 8% vacancy rate in Yorkshire & Humber, but ones of 27% and 24% in Outer and Inner London respectively.

The number of agency workers did not increase between 2016 and 2017, the statistics said.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of social workers who left their jobs in the year 2017 had been in their local authority less than five years. More than half of the leavers in the year (56% full-time equivalent) were between aged between 30 and 49.

Overall, the total headcount of children and families social workers was 30,670  in the year to September 2017.

23 Responses to Government figures reveal average social worker caseload

  1. Katie Politico February 15, 2018 at 12:15 pm #

    I don’t recognise these figures. The average case load in my experience of several LAs is 25 – 30 (children’s services).

    • DEBBIEWASTE February 15, 2018 at 2:41 pm #

      I agree with average caseload of 25-30, never 17

    • Erin February 15, 2018 at 10:45 pm #

      Are these numbers children or families? It only seems true if the numbers are families.

    • Rosemary February 17, 2018 at 9:15 am #

      That is true. 17.8 is an ideal caseload which has not been achievable particularly in disability teams where cases are never closed

  2. karen wright February 15, 2018 at 1:18 pm #

    How does this compare with Adults

    • Lesley February 21, 2018 at 8:06 pm #

      I would like to know the same, especially when yours is a complex case load

      • Stan March 5, 2018 at 8:42 pm #

        From my experience in adults, it depends on a number of factors, including: your knowledge, experience, specific role on the team, the team you’re on, case complexity, but most of all, the number of cases that need allocating.

        However, for a ball park figure, you would be looking at 25-30 in an generic adults team, and in a specialist learning disability team you would be looking at 30-40. Although at one point on an LD team, my own caseload was 70+. And yes, that was dangerously high and went on for far too long.

        The government don’t really seem to care what a maximum adults caseload should be, nor are they interested in designing a tool to help figure it out.

  3. Denise February 15, 2018 at 3:22 pm #

    My caseload has usually averaged around 45 – 50. It has recently reduced to 30 ( could that be because Ofsted are about to inspect?) but never been below that in 22 years of practice

    • julia February 16, 2018 at 12:39 am #

      Denise, a case load such as you describe sounds dangerous to me. I know I would not be able to keep that many children in mind, or give them the sort of meaningful support I would like. How do you keep up with all the stat visits and then the recordings?

    • Diane February 16, 2018 at 10:00 am #

      I have also known caseloads to be as high as 40 – 45 so these average figures surprise me.

  4. Ivan Waters February 15, 2018 at 4:18 pm #

    Methodology flawed and bound to produce figures far lower than the reality. All non-case holding posts other than directors are used in dividing up the number of cases. An SW’s manager, his, her manager, the IRO. et al. They are all given a share of the cases that in reality are all on the caseloads of the allocated SW. An obvious dodge to understate the figure for an allocated case holding SW. Click on the link above to see the definition. Everyone gets a share of the caseloads other than Directors!

  5. Phil Sanderson February 15, 2018 at 6:21 pm #

    The highest I have had is 37 and it has not been below 25 for years! This is cooking the books!!

  6. ColinD February 15, 2018 at 8:23 pm #

    I suspect there may be specialist workers with lower caseloads bringing the average down. Or they haven’t adjusted for part time staff who are working less cases but in fewer hours.

  7. Spike February 15, 2018 at 9:43 pm #

    My current caseload is 37, and throughout my 17 years in practice it has always been between 30-50. Where on earth are they getting their figures????

  8. Rebecca February 16, 2018 at 7:24 am #

    17??! This is completely inaccurate and quite infuriating. My guess is an ‘average’ would be around 25-30. There’s no way 26 is highest caseload in this country…

  9. Bec February 17, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

    This does vary and agree I have heard much higher numbers in some LA. In mine no one has more 20 children, in our care team this is average 12 families and in child protection teams this is an average of 10 families (always under 20 children). So there are some LA who are genuinely keep caseloads where they should be !

    • Mrs G March 9, 2018 at 1:27 pm #


      Do you mind stating what LA you work for.

  10. Carol February 19, 2018 at 8:05 pm #

    Once again… inaccurate figures. Anything to make the stats look good. It just shows how much they have their head in the sand.
    And it certainly shows nothing is going to change because they just cant bring themselves to tell the accurate truth.

    • Danny Mee February 21, 2018 at 9:18 pm #

      The report says it does differ. Yours may be highter. I’ve Worked at a few La. I’ve had 17. 38. 27. It ranges

      Most avg avoid be around 17 and ahouodnbe far less if case holding cse which is usually 5-6 cases max

  11. Jenny February 21, 2018 at 5:25 pm #

    I am tired of the constant focus on children’s services. What about adult social workers in all this?

    • Stan March 5, 2018 at 8:44 pm #

      Me too.

  12. Lesley February 21, 2018 at 8:08 pm #

    I would like to know the same figures for adults, especially when your cases are complex cases

  13. Jeanne Schofield March 2, 2018 at 6:34 pm #

    These figures are when fully staffed and no one is sick but we all know that the reality is often high sickness and low staff retainment . I have worked in my LA for 13 years as a social worker and often feel there is a culture that looks down on those of us who do not wish to move onto management. It would be so much more rewarding to be encouraged to be experts who are valued for their knowledge and passion