Here’s why social workers weren’t included in the public sector pay rise announcement

The profession was not included in an announcement earlier this week promising pay increases for public sector workers

singled out
Photo: Stringer Image/Fotolia

On Wednesday this week the government announced pay rises for public sector employees. The government said this would affect one million employees, including members of the armed forces, teachers, prison officers, police officers and doctors – but nothing was mentioned about social workers.

This prompted a strong response on social media, with social workers confused and angry about the apparent omission of the profession from a pay increase after enduring a long period with their pay capped.

The 1% public sector pay-cap ended last year, and social workers were rightly questioning whether there would be extra pay for them, given warnings that by 2020 pay levels could fall to their lowest level for 15 years.

Here is why social workers weren’t included in this week’s announcement.

Government doesn’t control pay for social workers

Most public sector social workers are paid by local authorities, who get their funding from a combination of local business rates, council taxes, fees/fines for local services and government grants. While there is a degree of government say in how much local authorities receive to carry out their duties, the decision-making over spending is delegated to authorities.

So the government didn’t announce a raise for social workers because it can’t – the sectors where it did announce raises are all areas that have their budgets set and paid for directly by the government.

So does this mean social workers haven’t got a pay rise?

No. There were long discussions about a pay rise for local council employees from the end of last year through to April 2018 between unions and the Local Government Association through the National Joint Council for local government services, the pay negotiating body for most councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This culminated in an agreement for pay increases between 2018 and 2020, which would see – on average – a 2% raise per year for council employees, including social workers, and larger increases in pay for those on the lowest wages.

Did the government pay for this?

Also no. Local authorities agreed the increases and have to pay for it out of their own budgets. There was no additional central government funding for pay increases and not an increase in the local government finance settlement to accommodate the increased burden this would put on funding.

Where did the money for other public sector workers come from?

The government statement said the increases were affordable within government spending plans, so no extra money was made available to pay for the increases, which prompted Unison to criticise the scheme as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, and warning that services would end up being cut to afford the raise.

Similar warnings have been issued by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), which said “without allocated funds from central government councils are left to make hard choices based on scarce resource”.

It added as well that the 2% pay rise “isn’t enough” when calculated against inflation (currently 2.3%)  and “against the backdrop of years of austerity cuts driving local authorities to drastically reduce services that provided much needed help for the most vulnerable in society”.

Are social workers being left out?

Responding to the announcement, BASW also made the point that social workers feel “excluded” from announcements and this can undermine the morale of the workforce.

And while, in this case, the government could not have included social workers in the announcement, the association says there are other areas where social workers are being excluded.

“The exclusion of social workers from The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017-19 – which further protects emergency workers dealing with the public – currently working its way through the House of Lords is another example where our sector is ignored compared to fellow public sector workers,” BASW said.

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20 Responses to Here’s why social workers weren’t included in the public sector pay rise announcement

  1. A Man Called Horse July 26, 2018 at 1:02 pm #

    Yes the Social workers who don’t know how we are awarded pay rises have not been keeping up with the news.

    What they really need to know is and is clearly communicated in the above article is that the Government hate Social Workers and they want to make life very difficult for them, forcing many to quit the profession at the earliest possible time.

    2% is a pay cut that reflect the Government view of their worth. Local Authorities who are responsible for pay continue to have to endure Austerity which means cuts to services and jobs. It also means very poor pay will continue while increased responsibilities will be heaped upon their shoulders. Accreditation is a good example of making life very difficult for Social Workers. Expect to work harder for less and less money over the coming years.

    My advice if you want or expect decent pay that you can live on find another profession that the Tories haven’t yet downgraded and rubbished. That of course will be hard to achieve as they are very busy destroying public services, Unions that defend them and any other organisation that gets in their way.

    You want to see the future of Social Work look what the Tories have done to Education and Teachers who are quitting in huge numbers. Finally don’t expect BASW to do anything for you they represent no-one as far as I can see. BASW a union for conservative Tories who like to play at being docile puppies, don’t waste your money join UNISON

    • Glenys Turner July 26, 2018 at 2:28 pm #

      How refreshing to hear from a fellow Union member. We had the oppurtunity to vote re the pay rise. I for one was quite prepared to strike as the situation is becoming unmanagable, poor pay, increased workloads and no recognition of the work people do. Lets remember…you get what you vote for be it within Unions or in a General Election.

    • Lucy Wilkin July 26, 2018 at 3:05 pm #

      BASW can only be what the individuals getting involved make it, and my experience is that very few social workers want to get involved or stick their heads above the parapet and push for change. They don’t have the energy/time/motivation or believe that they shouldn’t have to work hard to change things – they shouldn’t have to fight for good working conditions etc etc. I agree with them partially, but if everybody gives up and gets out then nothing will EVER change.

      As a student in my final year, keen to make BASW into something that works for the individuals in the profession, I’m constantly trying to get social workers and other social work students to get involved, push for change and have a say in their future by using BASW as a mouthpiece. However as much as it’s developing and we now have a large quantity of students and newly qualified staff getting involved, it is hard work and there are by no means a large quantity of the existing professionals in the area joining in. If we want BASW to do anything, and be the voice for our profession, then we need professionals to step up and speak up. BASW can only be what the individuals involved shape it into being. If we want BASW to have ‘teeth’ to speak up for us, then we need to give them our words and our experiences. We need to turn up.

      My experience isn’t that BASW is a union for conservative tories playing at being docile puppies….my experience is that BASW is a small percentage of the profession trying to make a change, but REALLY in need of the professionals to back them up and get involved. We have the opportunity, if we speak up and tell those people that matter what is REALLY important, to change our jobs and improve the way in which we can support the vulnerable people we work with. But we do need to take responsibility for speaking up and not just give up and leave.

      Too many people don’t understand what we do let alone value it. If we take responsibility for trying to change that and getting us on the same footing as the other professionals, then we maybe won’t have to fight so hard. However, lets face it, every single profession, regardless of who is responsible for their pay at present, is fighting for what they deserve.

      • Ruth July 26, 2018 at 6:34 pm #

        Great to hear this determination from you Lucy! Absolutely – get social workers involved in BASW to make the profession what we and the people who need our services want and need it to be. Social workers need to come together in strength and pursue our principles and ethics, human rights and social justice. BASW is not a Union but we work with SWU and together with a growing membership we are in a great position to influence and make change and really develop the profession. That is what people like you need for a long and rewarding career in social work and its what society needs if we are to turn around terrible austerity and rampant poverty. Ruth

  2. Caroline Jordan July 26, 2018 at 1:49 pm #

    Most public sector child are social workers are NOT paid by local authorities, Cafcass is the biggest employer of this group in this country. Their pay rise last year was less than 1%.

    • Andrew B July 27, 2018 at 2:41 am #

      I think you misunderstood? CAfcass may be the single biggest employer of children’s SWs (not sure it is bigger than some of the largest LAs) but ithe number it employs is dwarfed by the total number of SW’s working in all the LAs
      There are lots of vancancies in statutory LA social work so they could get a pay increase by moving back into social work!

      • Justine July 28, 2018 at 10:08 am #

        What, “moving back to social work”… I am offended by this comment. May i suggest you read the job spec and role requirements for a Social worker in Cafcass before making a comment thats not helpful when the vast majority of social workers are working collaboratively to ensure vulnerable children and adults are kept safe.

  3. john simpson July 26, 2018 at 3:32 pm #

    Whilst I accept this won’t be universally acknowledged, the reality is that social worker’s pay has increased over the last number of years on the basis of supply and demand. As good workers are highly in demand, this pushes up pay to attract workers to move jobs (as there is not enough available staff to fill the posts vacant). As research shows, if you want a pay rise, move job! If your current employer isn’t recognising your experience and skill, then go somewhere that will. Whilst I would much prefer better union recognition and negotiating power, the reality is that both local authorities and independent providers struggle to appoint competent and experienced social workers. So the best advice perhaps is ‘know your value’ and if your employer doesn’t, then there are other options open to you.

    • A Man Called Horse July 26, 2018 at 5:59 pm #

      Don’t accept pay has increased. How is that possible with 10 years of Austerity? Now you could say Bankers pay has increased for sure as they must be rewarded for wrecking the economy, eating all the cakes and leaving the public sector to pick up the bill.

      UNISON have figures that suggest in real terms pay have fallen by over 17%
      I would also like to suggest that individual solutions might work for a few, for most that will not work. We need to collectively improve pay by direct action, being too nice simply will invite the Tories to stand on our faces.

      Accreditation is an example of a Government initiative designed to crush Social Workers and treat them like rats on an ever spinning wheel. Wake up Social Work is a terribly difficult job with low pay and no prospects. Witness the treatment of Agency Social Workers who have been absolutely stamped on by the Tories.

    • Anna Z July 29, 2018 at 11:10 am #

      Mine has not increased. Please advise about ‘better options’ – curious to hear. + we’re and have been for a few years understaffed resulting in hundreds of unallocated cases. Also +- newly appointed staff is on more pay than me after years working in a council. Changing jobs ? More like changing career.

  4. Anrutheta July 26, 2018 at 6:54 pm #

    Does this mean that social workers emplyed by health trusts will get pay rises against those working in LA’s?

  5. Emma July 26, 2018 at 7:28 pm #

    Government are able to absent themselves in terms of Social Worker pay, of course, but they are happy to legislate for greater regulatory control of what should be an independent profession via a move to a quasi governmental body. It’s the best of both worlds.

  6. Ms c a krenn July 26, 2018 at 9:27 pm #

    Im off. Sick of never getting a mention even with a justification.
    What hurts me the most is they call all emergency workers angels… even have an awards programme on the television and no mention of the damn hard work we do… day in and day out. It was a vocation for me social work, but sorry I am outer the profession for good.. I have nothing left to give and I am exhasted..

  7. Maz Angelo July 27, 2018 at 11:40 am #

    Just wondered? Are we represented at the TUC? I should hope we embargo any support of other Public Sectors agenda or expectation of “Block Votes” for their agendas there until we can be sure of their support for us in Government changes/proposals particularly around OUR safety and pay rises. We need to be proactive, we are not doormats.

  8. Lisa Birchall July 27, 2018 at 4:51 pm #

    Social Workers seem to want to “have their cake and it”. They were up in arms about the subject of being held accountable for wilful neglect yet Police and other individuals working in a safeguarding role are routinely held accountable. If social workers want a pay rise then they should be subject to the same laws as other public workers. It is part of being transparent because of the power delegated to social workers to intrude into a member of the publics’ private life.

    • John July 30, 2018 at 9:59 am #

      Lisa are you serious, Social Workers are always the individuals that are thrown under the bus when something goes wrong. Why is the responsibility of any abuse that of a professional and not the individual who perpetrated it. No worker intentionally abuses the vulnerable rather try their best to change the situation for them. This task however is made increasingly difficult due to misguided views like yours. You can not have it both ways, would you rather abuse of the vulnerable is left as it is and ignored or do you wish individuals (Social Workers) to try and change the situation. Remembering that Social Workers do not have the power to force people to change who do not want to.

  9. Integrityalways July 27, 2018 at 9:42 pm #

    Let us strike! Unison call to action!

    • Red1 August 21, 2018 at 5:53 pm #

      Far more effective than a strike would be a ‘work to rule’ ie working only the hours you are paid for and taking your full lunch entitlement. Social Workers leaving at the office at 5pm?! it would be hard to do because generally we are caring, conscientious people – but enough of being taken for a ride.

  10. social worker July 31, 2018 at 11:54 am #

    since you all debating – why don’t you all exchange numbers and become a united front and stand up together instead posting on this forum.

  11. Incandescent August 1, 2018 at 7:33 pm #

    It is interesting that they pull this one given that they have been directing local authorities not to pay anything more than 1%. Plus the couple of years without any rises. All of a sudden they are not responsible. Additionally where’s the chief social workers view in all this?