Agency social workers can still earn £6,000 a year more than permanent staff despite a clamp down on agency worker rates and the introduction IR35 legislation, a Community Care investigation into social worker salaries has found.
Despite the pay gap between permanent and locum staff narrowing due to regional caps on agency pay and the new pressures on agency staff from IR35 legislation, an annual ‘top line’, pre-tax salary for agency social workers continues to outstrip that of a local authority-employed staff member.
A Community Care freedom of information (FOI) request across 107 councils in England found that the average basic salary, before tax, at the top of a pay scale for a qualified children’s frontline social worker was, at just over £35,000, £6,000 lower than what an agency worker could invoice on an average hourly rate working 37 hours per week, 47 weeks of the year.
For advanced practitioners and team managers the gap was wider, with agency team managers able to command an annual rate of almost £12,000 more than permanent staff, before deductions.
The gap narrowed for frontline social workers in the adult social care sector, with a discrepancy of around £4,000 between permanent and agency.
Find out more about the pay picture in social work from agency to permanent staff, and across the country, using our interactive maps to see the top of the pay scales for social work staff in England’s local authorities.
However, the investigation found that caps on agency pay rates in line with regional memorandums of understanding (MoUs), along with government IR35 legislation tightening the level of take-home pay an agency worker will actually receive, means that the take-home pay gap is narrower than the basic picture paints.
Local authorities within regions that have caps on agency pay rates were paying locums in line with these, the research found, but some councils were still giving higher hourly rates for some agency staff.
Children and adults’ social workers
Community Care’s investigation also revealed that children’s and adults’ social workers broadly earn the same for similar roles.
The average pay (at the top of pay scales) across England for a permanent qualified frontline social worker was identical in children’s services and adults’ services, at £35,444. An advanced practitioner in children’s services was only slightly higher, at £40,038 than an adults’ equivalent (£39,937), while team managers were paid roughly £1,500 more in children’s services than in adults.
Regionally, qualified frontline social workers in London and the South East are, on average, paid more at the top of their pay bands than their equivalents elsewhere. A frontline children’s social worker at the top of the pay scale in London can expect an average £39,855 compared to that in the East Midlands (£34,049), North West (£33,988) and South West (£32,486). London-based adults’ staff see an average £40,086, compared to £33,554 in the East Midlands and £33,997 in Yorkshire.
Expect more findings from the investigation on Community Care in the coming days and weeks where we also reveal coumcil spend on agency and employed social workers in 2016/17.
Community Care sent a freedom of information request to England’s 152 local authorities, with 107 responses received, asking for details on pay bands for social worker roles (the minimum and maximum) and rates paid to agency staff. We also asked for the total costs to councils for employing staff along with how much was spent on employed and agency social workers in 2016/17.
Salary ranges quoted are the maximums of pay bands for social worker roles.