10 social workers have died from Covid-19, official figures show

Death numbers far in excess of two cases reported in media as sector bodies reiterate concerns over lack of PPE and testing for practitioners

Coronavirus image
Photo: creativeneko/Adobe Stock

Ten social workers in England and Wales have been recorded as dying from Covid-19, official figures show.

The deaths of three men and seven women who work in the profession were registered as involving Covid-19 between 9 March and 20 April, OOffice for National Statistics figures released yesterday showed.

In addition, two people classified as being ‘social services managers and directors’ had died from the disease – meaning Covid-19 was recorded on the person’s death certificate, whether they had had a positive test or not.

The figures are significantly in excess of the number of deaths of social workers reported in the media. Community Care has reported on two cases: Muhammad Islam, a personal adviser at Birmingham Children’s Trust, who died last month, and a practitioner working for Southwark council in London who died in March.

The ONS figures showed that, among social care staff in general, deaths involving Covid-19 far outstripped those among healthcare staff and the general working population.

Lack of testing and PPE

The figures feed into a wider debate about the level of support the social care sector has received during the pandemic, with employer groups, unions and professional associations repeatedly criticising a lack of personal protective equipment, testing and resources in general for care staff and social workers.

In response to the release yesterday of the government’s plan for easing the lockdown, the British Association of Social Workers and Social Workers Union said: “Social workers need to know that they will be protected at work and able to continue to undertake their roles with the right equipment and guidance. The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been an ongoing failure across care, health and other essential occupations, as has the difficulty of obtaining tests and the delays in receiving test results. No credible plan has been provided  a timetable or a process of how these issues will be resolved.”

The government’s plan does not refer to PPE or testing for social workers, but has a section on the availability of both for staff working in care homes.

While testing has been rolled out for social care staff over the past few weeks, it said that it would not be until 6 June that testing will have been offered to all staff and residents in care homes catering for people aged over 65.

On access to PPE for care home staff, the plan said the government was “stepping in to support supply and distribution of PPE to the care sector, delivering essential supplies to care homes, hospices, residential rehabs and community care organisations”, while providing care homes with “extensive guidance” on infection prevention and control.

41 Responses to 10 social workers have died from Covid-19, official figures show

  1. Natalie May 12, 2020 at 9:49 am #

    A social worker died in our team – its so sad

  2. Jenny Green May 12, 2020 at 10:05 am #

    I’m not surprised by this news! What has surprised me is the lack of profile on social workers throughout this whole crisis! Where are Social Work England and BASW in terms of increasing public awareness of the important role social workers and their managers have played and are playing during this crisis! I’ve barely seen anything and I know that when the country does the 8pm clap, in the public’s mind that really is for NHS staff and more latterly care home staff et al, but few people are thinking social workers. I believe the sector is partly to blame going back years when there was the move to level the playing field in recognition of the NVQ L4 as being on a par to the social work role. This move meant that in my view this muddied the waters in terms of the distinct roles and that has led to a catch all phrase ie ‘social care workers.’ So why would the public and government really think about the different roles within that catch all phrase?, so the attempt to include all, has meant that social work has lost its distinct identity… During this terrible time and prior to this, I’ve waited to see and hear the words ‘social workers’ but have waited in vain! When the media and government talk about the important roles played at a time of crises (not just this crisis) they’ll mention the police, nurses, doctors, ambulance workers and now latterly, transport workers, bus drivers et al and I wait in vain to hear the words social workers…I’ve been qualified for just over 40 years, little has changed…the bad press when something goes wrong, the blame game etc but it’s always felt to me that there hasn’t been a consistent voice that’s been loud enough for social workers! I am truly saddened by these deaths but not surprised. I take nothing away from the bravery and dedication of health staff and other professionals who have really been ‘super heroes’ in these unprecedented times…just saddened that once again the efforts of social workers is not seen and the bodies that are supposed to represent us, haven’t done a better job now and in previous years of ensuring there is recognition and awareness of the unseen contribution that social workers make to society! My condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones!

    • Pauline Sergeant May 12, 2020 at 7:00 pm #

      I totally agree with the thoughts of Jenny Green about the lack of acknowledgement or mention of the hard work that social workers are doing. Not just now but always. Responding to the expectations of others in times of crisis. Co-Vid poses such a deadly crisis and J pay my respects to all my social work colleagues who have been struck by this disease.
      Let us all keep safe remembering that we cannot help or support others if we are not confident about our own safety and protection.
      Keep challenging any inadequacies in securing your protection.
      Take care all of you.

    • Lianne May 12, 2020 at 9:30 pm #

      Well said, we seem to be invisible 😢. Respect to those who have succumbed to this disease

    • David May 14, 2020 at 11:40 am #

      The deaths of social workers and all workers in social care and health are tragic. It is absolutely true that social workers are less in national and governmental news than some other professions; we don’t make headlines as easily as clinicians and are not seen as much as ‘victims’ of this pandemic as some very exposed colleagues in care homes and other (particularly very low paid) occupations. That is the media battle we face. However, BASW has been the only social work representative organisation consistently in the national press and broadcast media – and very early on – in the Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Radio 4 Today Programme and Woman’s Hour, Radio 5 Live, Newsight, Vicoria Derbyshire, BBC news, national newspapers in Scotland and Norhern Ireland, local radio and press. All of this and ongoing work on coronavirus is on the website. If you have missed this, fair enough and there is always more to do. But its utterly wrong to suggest BASW isn’t there.

      If you want a target for the profile of social work, give feedback to BASW. But also write to the mainstream press and tv companies and say – why won’t you take and make more stories of social work? And actually look at the website and see all that BASW is doing – take heart from that and join the struggle in honour of people that have lost their lives.

    • Lorraine Campbell May 14, 2020 at 2:11 pm #

      Well said Jenny and accurate from Lorraine another Social Worker. I would also add that nothing seems to be highlighted in the media about the number of people who are being discharged from hospital who are Covid19 positive and back into their homes and care homes, placing care sector staff and family members at real risk. I know from my job this is happening and that carers do not have safe enough PPE, including Social Workers having to go out to see people in the community. It’s an absolute disgrace. Unfortunately, as Social Workers we come across some unsafe hospital discharges that happen at times, not just in the present Covid 19 crisis but nothing is highlighted about that in the media. It’s all very sad the amount of people dying from this terrible disease. I hope all essential frontline essential workers from everywhere discipline can stay safe and take great care and thanks for all the work you do.

    • Jo carr May 16, 2020 at 11:39 am #

      I fully agree with Jenny Green well said.

    • Melanie May 26, 2020 at 12:20 pm #

      I could not have said it any better Jenny Green . I too,have been waiting and waiting to hear recognition for the work social workers are doing during this time. Only yesterday, did the BBC highlight the significance off two social workers in London who work in children services . The news stated that children services have seen a considerable drop in referrals during this time. They really need to consider the impact on Adult Care Services particularly Managers, social workers , community care officers and occupational therapist working within Hospital teams, Adults with disabilities and those who are 65+ . These teams are really being stretched and are under immense pressure. There is no acknowledgement or recognition for all that Social services across the U.K. are doing. It’s as if we don’t exist

  3. Denise Lovemore May 12, 2020 at 11:19 am #

    So sorry to hear a fellow Social worker has passed away from this horrible invisible killer

  4. Steve Hoper May 12, 2020 at 6:02 pm #

    Agree with Jenny Green. The silence of the Dames and Sirs in social work bureaucracies rather than raising our profile and status and ensuring our safety is pitiful.

  5. Lisa O'Hehir May 12, 2020 at 6:06 pm #

    Lisa O’Hehir my sincere condolences those social workers who have died families and all who loved and cared for them . I completely agree where are the bodies that are supposed to represent social workers at this time? A truly shocking state of affairs .

  6. Kola Singh May 12, 2020 at 6:14 pm #

    In response to Jenny Green.
    I agree, we are still frowned upon by society. They just don’t get we care for and support the most marginalised people in our communities. It’s so easy to put us at the back of their minds ; unconsciously or not (out of mind out if sight), they don’t have to think about the serious risk, for example their children are in, because we are there policing their communities. I have been qualified since 1991 and as stated believe we will always be frowned upon.
    I am part of a large street/road WhatsApp neighbourhood support group who are doing a sterling job supporting each other and clapping like clock work on a Thursday. I suggested we show some respect for social workers who are also risking their lives etc and did not get a single response.
    Keep up the great work colleagues.
    Kola Singh

    • Opal Lady May 12, 2020 at 9:03 pm #

      Condolences to the family and friends of those who have passed away

      Couldn’t agree more with Jenny’s comments.
      Where are BASW etc?

      As well as social workers not being mentioned. The families we are not able to reach are hardly acknowledged, never mind those children on CP Pans..

      Last week I completed a 60 mile (plus) round trip to collect what I can only describe as ‘woeful’ PPE equipment..

      One thing is for sure, should a child death happen, our profession will be in the spotlight!

      Tbh, the press have well and truly whipped up many aspects of this situation.. Likely a matter of time before the NHS workers are turned on or ‘demonised’ when the ‘right story’ comes along!

  7. Marie Parkinson May 12, 2020 at 8:55 pm #

    First and formost my sincere heart felt sympathy goes out to the families that have lost their loved ones through this terrible disease, but again the social care sector are the unmentionable which is an absolute disgrace to be perfectly honest, I myself and my Daughter work in this sector and work very hard to keep our vulnerable clients safe from harm, and every day we go above and beyond, with no recognition at all for what we do, we are basically at the bottom of the pile where there is just nobody that seems to care about how hard we work or appreciate us, I’ve worked in the health and social care sector for approximately 12 years now and put so much into what I believe care should be like, and how I would hope that if any of my own family where to need care they would receive the same as I give, but sometimes I just think is this all worthwhile, when the likes of the government do nothing for us, it’s totally outrageous and so sad when so many care workers put in so much effort and for what, It’s all about the NHS its sickening to think we are not even valued for what we do, and through these unprecedented times we are also risking our own lives and our families, this makes me very sad and angry.

  8. Ann-Marie May 12, 2020 at 9:31 pm #

    A very well said to Jenny. My sincere condolences to those families for their unnecessary and tragic loss of love ones. We OT’s who also work alongside social workers within social care also feel this way, the demand and pressure is immense in social services and certainly not for the light hearted. SW & OTs are completely dedicated to their job and hard working professionals who go above and beyond for the public under very testing circumstances with very limited resources. I dont think I’ve heard a single mention for OTs up to now? they will be vital for rehab following this COVID and deserve so much more recognition.

  9. Lianne May 12, 2020 at 9:31 pm #

    Rest in peace all those in our profession who have died from this disease.

  10. Pam May 12, 2020 at 11:39 pm #

    I agree with Jenny. We are always the forgotten ones. I am still out visiting my families not knowing what to expect, to ensure our children are safe and protected and supporting our vulnerable families. We have not been provided with PPE, except some hand gel. Everything you hear is about all the other professions but never a mention, (which I agree do a great job) of social workers and the good work we do. We pay to be members of social work England and BASW so the least they could do is support us now through this terrible time and any other time

  11. Paula May 13, 2020 at 12:52 am #

    My sincere condolences to those social workers who have died and families who have lost loved ones
    I agree with Jenny’s response , I work with vulnerable adults and go above and beyond to provide support to ensure they are safe and eligible care needs are met, at this difficult time I understand families are suffering but feel the work we provide is not acknowledged and appreciated .we are putting our own lives and families lives at risk to support vulnerable people and we get no recognition for the work we do, It’s sad to think we are not valued for what we do
    Keep up the great work colleagues

  12. Sean May 13, 2020 at 6:39 am #

    Rip

  13. Mitch May 13, 2020 at 6:49 am #

    Social worker in my area have to go inside homes complete direct work look at bedrooms spend time with children.
    We have hand gel I am surprise more social workers have not died.

    As we ease lock down the client’s will be out and about and we will be more at risk.

    Hand gel is not enough protection.

    I send my wishes and condolences to all people who have lost love ones.

  14. Shaz May 13, 2020 at 8:28 am #

    Such a sad loss!!

    Condolence to the families and love ones, they will be sadly missed, but lets celebrate the good work that we do as a social worker, that no one recognises..
    Our job is to protect vulnerable children, but who protect us? Who will protect our children?

    Social worker, please be safe and risk assess. Let’s look after each other.

  15. Jaison Musindo May 13, 2020 at 9:26 am #

    My condolences to those who lost their lives during this sad times were are living. Social workers are not talked about but we are the ones who pick up all the pieces after pple are discharged from hospital. We have many Covid19 positive people discharged back in the community and we have a duty to assess and provide them with care and support. Yes the use of PPE is very disappointing because a plastic apron, mouth/nose mask and gloves is all that is provided and this PPE does not provide the much needed protection. This then leaves social care workers exposed to covid 19 with no covering to clothes feet and hair. The risk is high of carrying the virus to the car and family.
    There are so many other dilemmas faced by social workers for example the whole issue of home working and confidentiality of information where the family is locked down. How do we manage the home which has changed to be a multi purpose environment and how do we maintain confidentiality with ever changing family dynamics.
    We have to support one another remain positive and hopeful at the same time uphold our Values.

  16. James Appledore May 13, 2020 at 10:24 am #

    Condolences to the loved ones of my social worker colleagues, to the midwife, to the nurse, to the colleague that cared for my mother in her care home, to the doctor, the physiotherapist, the Occupational therapist, the porter that took the risk to deliver the hazardous swab, the cleaner that bought their own mask and gloves to carry on cleaning, the receptionist that had to tell the unhappy story, the students, the volunteers. We are the ones who carry on, are bullied and threatened by bosses safely working from home. We are all workers together and our strength is our solidarity. Most of us have worked as if there was no hazard. Lets not forget each other and remember to hold to account those who did not support us but who will come into the light to claim the plaudits, the bonus payments and the honours.

  17. Neeta May 13, 2020 at 2:24 pm #

    Very sad loss. Sincere condolences.

  18. BV May 13, 2020 at 3:18 pm #

    Hence the reason if I could turn the clock back I would not float sw again. 20 years. Ain’t worth it. Get flagged off all the time and no appreciation one bit. Too late at my tender age though.

  19. Maudlyn Burrowes May 13, 2020 at 4:45 pm #

    My condolences to the families of social workers who
    has died. I know that you do a great job, I had some great social workers when my mum was alive, thank you for all the help you provided much appreciated.
    Keep up the good work, I will be clapping for you on Thursday 👏👏👏

  20. Jude Ukato May 13, 2020 at 9:15 pm #

    I tried to raise this issue on twitter the other day. I was violently shut down.

  21. Val Hodgson May 14, 2020 at 12:42 am #

    Sincere condolences to all families involved.

    Jenny you are spot on with your observations. We all pay our subscriptions to our professional bodies and they need to stand up for us now at a time like this.

  22. Jenna Akuchie May 14, 2020 at 5:17 am #

    I sent a message to one our top leaders reminding him that BMA and the National Director of Nursing spoke on National TV when the first doctor and first nurse passed died from Covid 19, and told him we needed to hear the voice of our Social Work leaders on TV too when the first social worker died in Southwark, London but I don’t think I’ve heard any social work personality on the National Television so far.
    I will carry on clapping for social workers at 8pm every Thursday night.
    My condolences to all bereaved families

  23. Mark Justice May 14, 2020 at 2:39 pm #

    I will be out there tonight clapping. But will the families how I have supported during the lockdown, be clapping me or colleagues.

    And where were BASW etc., on national TV, this is the time when we should be talking to the nation about the important work that we do! Where does our subscriptions go? Not selling our profession.

    I should add that I send my condolences to all those affected by the virus

    • Jean Jarvis May 16, 2020 at 8:57 am #

      I completely agree with Jenny. The social work profession is not being adequately representated by Social Work England, by BASW or by the unions, in mainstream media and there is a distinct lack of discussion about the impact of covid-19 on social workers. Social workers needs to develop a professional body that truly represents them and raises awareness of the issues affecting the profession. What is it about social work and the people attracted into the profession that means we are prepared to be ignored, to work within a bullying culture which is data and target driven rather than whether change has been affected. Why are we silent? Let’s think about that or are we just too oppressed and burnt out to speak out?

  24. Dee May 15, 2020 at 6:09 pm #

    Where are our Chief Social Workers in all this?! Silent as always! I genuinely don’t understand what they do. I thought they were meant to be the voice of our profession? Please speak up for us.
    Sympathies to all those who have lost love ones. Keep safe.

  25. Anne-Marie May 15, 2020 at 6:49 pm #

    Firstly, can I add with others on here, my very sincere condolences to the families of the social workers who have fallen victim to this horrific virus.

    I do have to say however that on two occasions early in the current lock down I did hear BoJo mention on the BBC, the fantasic work being done by social workers. It was tagged onto his praise for medical and nursing staff.

    Social Work England is just another variation of the GSCC i.e. an adjunct of the government put in place to bash hard working practitioners over the head whenever something goes wrong or when a manager is the subject of a bullying grievance – which I witnessed with a practitioner from the East Midlands working as a locum in a Manchester Mental Health Team. Unfortunately this is not the only occasions of such with that Trust.

    BASW however is a totally different case. They are really on the side of social workers and do some fantastic work on our behalf. IMHO, more of us, if not all, should be BASW members.

    Whilst I’m on here. Have you noticed that when it fits we are Social Workers, have a protected status an therefore need to be registered and pay our not-insignificant registration fees.
    Yet most of the time we are ‘social care workers’ bundled together with unqualified or lower qualified social care staff and our professional status is completely overlooked.

    It does make one think!!!

  26. Alison Jones May 15, 2020 at 9:27 pm #

    David I am afraid I will disagree with you. The last round up from the Chief Executive of BASW is just an internal debate about the Annual General meeting and warm words. No passion, no indignation about how exposed and vulnerable social workers still are. Now is the time to be strident not yet more internal platitudes about how wonderful we all are.

  27. Momenty May 16, 2020 at 9:37 am #

    Our thoughts and heartfelt prayers are with those that have lost their loved ones and we lost our colleagues. They all, together with other unsung heroes sacrificed their lives for the good and transforming the lives of others. Since it is evident that this virus can penetrate across all boundaries, it is therefore necessary for us Who have survived not to be complacent but take greater caution. I emplore onto us not only to wait to be provided with PPE but to be innovative and use everything in our power needed to mitigate the risk in case we are exposed. In as much as we would like to help, we need to take great care of our own selves without which we won’t be available to care for the ones we want to care for.
    Let’s always be open-minded, vigilant, alert, and diligent in our practices. Let us Play our part and leave the rest to God Almighty creator

  28. Susan Baker May 17, 2020 at 9:33 am #

    I would like to know the ethnic background of the people who died. Are black and brown social workers also dying disproportionately?

  29. Flint May 20, 2020 at 10:10 am #

    As a hospital social worker I have seen first hand the devastation this virus has caused, our team cannot work from home unlike other teams as we need to be on the wards working in coalition with the medical MDT, its like being in a war zone with the dangers. I hope we get through this without incident but as the days pass the danger do not go away. I never thought I would ever be in this position but as I am I will carry on and do my job , I am proud to be a Social worker at this time but saddened at the loss of my fellow professionals within this service. Social work England has just taken my payment for registration, I am so glad that the priorities of this organisation has not faulted during this epidemic.

  30. Janet Black May 21, 2020 at 10:33 am #

    British Medical Association: 4 surveys of GP’s and Hospital doctors in April with published results.

    ” Over half of GP’s and over third of hospital doctors sourcing their own use or departmental PPE”
    ” 65% of doctors felt either partly or not at all protected from coronavirus.
    “40% of doctors said their biggest concern was the long term impact of coronavirus on clinical demand.”

    BASW: “Social work during Coronavirus:Ongoing survey”
    No results published that I can see.

    This is why as socal workers we are marginalised and ignored. At the worst of times any of us could ever have imagined, we still don’t know how and how adequately we feel protected and valued by our employers, the impact of our work on our physical and mental well being, what we think our own and our professions future will be.

  31. Jenny Green May 21, 2020 at 3:56 pm #

    Re Susan Baker’s question: I am aware that of those I know about who have died…there has been a female African social worker in a South London Borough, an Asian man in Birmingham and a Caribbean woman who worked in an East London borough. So if the figures are correct, then that’s 3 out of the 10, which is basically a third, so it would be interesting to get the detailed figures on this, given what has emerged about who is being more adversely affected by Covid-19…

  32. Janet Black May 21, 2020 at 11:27 pm #

    Thanks Mithran. The point I am trying to make is that summarising responses of 1200 people to “Several”, “Another”, “Some”, “One said” is a narrative, it does not equip me to seriously engage and debate with non-social worker colleagues. I can tell you that 100% of my team feel unprotected, 30% bought their own gloves and sanitiser as they don’t feel we can rely on our employer. It would be good to know what percentage of the 1200 respondents did the same and what percentage worry about service and delivery shortcomings. I don’t write to decry BASW, some of my best friends are members, but to, at least from my perspective, highlight the lack of rigour and passion from social work leaders in a time when other professional bodies are laser sharp in representing their members. However moving narratives and stories are, facts and data matter. I could make the same points about woeful Social Work England too ofcourse.