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

Death rate from the disease among social care staff doubled from mid-April to late-May, with widening gap to the rest of the population, Office for National Statistics data identifies

Flaming candles at the funeral ceremony indoor
Photo: castenoid/Adobe Stock

Twenty one social workers were recorded as dying from Covid-19 up to the last week of May, more than double the figure recorded for mid-April, official figures have shown.

The deaths of eight male and 13 female practitioners in England and Wales were registered as involving Covid-19 from 9 March to 25 May, said the Office for National Statistics. Up to 20 April, 10 deaths had been recorded among social workers.

Most of these deaths have not been publicised – Community Care has reported on two of them – however, our survey of social care practitioners – most of whom were social workers – on the impact of the pandemic in May found that 30% had had colleagues who had become seriously ill or died due to Covid-19.

The survey also found that 55% of practitioners had carried out duties that had caused them anxiety that they, their families or people they worked with could be put at risk of infection, with separate research by academics identifying a number of factors driving social workers to take risks in practising during the pandemic.

Deaths among social care staff well outstripping national average

The ONS figures also showed a substantial and widening gap in the Covid-19 death rate between social care staff and the general working population. Among men, there were 50.1 deaths per 100,000 male social care workers from the disease from 9 March to 25 May, compared with 19.1 for workers in general, while among female staff it was 19.1 for social care staff compared with 9.7 for the general working population.

Death rates for care staff have doubled since the last set of ONS figures on deaths from Covid by occupation, up to 20 April, when the rate for men was 23.4 and for women 9.6. They remain well above the equivalent rates for health staff, which were 30.4 for men and 11.0 for women.

Overall, there were 268 deaths among social care staff from 9 March to 25 May, with frontline care workers accounting for 204 of these.

Social care ‘neglected’ during pandemic

Think-tank the King’s Fund said the figured illustrated how social care had been neglected by government during the pandemic.

“It is a tragedy that such a disproportionately high number of social care staff have died from Covid-19,” said Suzie Bailey, director of leadership and organisational development. “Hard-working care staff have been on the frontline in this crisis, but have been let down by government promises of support that have not been delivered. It is increasingly clear that social care has been neglected during the pandemic, with disastrous consequences.

“Lessons must be learnt. The virus still poses a very real threat and care workers need to be prioritised and protected. Social care must never again be treated as an afterthought to the NHS, but as an equal partner in an interdependent system.”

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said:  “These figures reflect a tragic national scandal. The government has failed to protect social care during this pandemic and even now, these issues are far from being resolved.

“Care workers have financial pressures to work when they should be shielding or self-isolating. Protective kit is being used for longer than is safe and testing is still not happening. Social care needs reform from top to toe to fix the system for good.”

26 Responses to 21 social workers have died from Covid-19, show official figures

  1. Roslyn Gowers June 29, 2020 at 1:06 pm #

    This is sad and shocking and may not be the full story either. As an Independent Social Worker myself, I am sure that the many ISWs that exist have not been contacted about this and may have other stories to add.

    Everyone who has died as a result of this pandemic is a huge loss – that so many are dying because of their job roles, across the keyworker spectrum, is a real tragedy and we must learn from this for the future..

  2. Red Buddah June 29, 2020 at 1:57 pm #

    Respect to all social workers who go unrecognised for the difficult job they do. Disappointing that Social Work England has been almost invisible since the outbreak started. Along with the analysis of Govenment logistical break down should come along side an analysis why Social Work England did not do more to protect those hospital social workers who were forced to comply with their health counterparts demands to move vulnerable patients off the wards and into the community. We have been betrayed by the very organisation that was supposed to protect us.

    • Jo June 29, 2020 at 8:48 pm #

      SWE’s main response during all of this….we still expect you to submit your CPD by November… shows where their priorities lie, and its not in supporting the ever dwindling mental health of their workforce or recognising the incredible pressures we are under, trying to juggling increased work, increased anxiety for both our own families and our clients, trying to juggle our own childcare, educating our children and our own worries, losses and down right fear about this virus.

    • Elle June 30, 2020 at 3:06 pm #

      Sadly this is nothing new the GSCC/HCPC/SWE seem generally take the money and offer unless it’s punitive response to complaints whilst I recognise that some of those maybe justifiable, it doesn’t detract from the view that there is no public response or protection for those in social care.

      No public voice, support, or protection. It is highly disappointing such that I haven’t even considered refusing to pay the subscription however it’s not a feasible option at this time unless it was a collective response

  3. Sean Hayes June 29, 2020 at 2:51 pm #

    Rest in Peace.

  4. Ana Claudia Menezes June 29, 2020 at 6:25 pm #

    So sad! In solidarity with their families, friends and colleagues.

  5. Meena Patel June 29, 2020 at 8:08 pm #

    RIP To all the workers who passed away
    It’s very sad to hear these deaths occurred during their time working to serve children and their families.
    Social Workers like other professionals have been allowed to work in the front line however SW profession is not recognised or mentioned during the pandemic. I would urge that official tribute is paid .

  6. Carol Reid June 30, 2020 at 8:49 am #

    An official figure that may well be higher given the likelihood of Covid19 to exacerbate underlying illnesses. Hancock’s “protective ring around care homes” was a meaningless soundbite in complete contradiction to the reality for social workers, social care staff and vulnerable service users.

  7. J June 30, 2020 at 9:15 am #

    What are you, CC, going to do with this data? Are you going to interview those who made the decision to let staff work with little ppe? Are you going to hold those at the top to account for the strategic mistakes? Are you going to hold SWE and senior administration to account on their lack of leadership? Are you going to uphold SW ethics and create change for the workforce?
    Or are you just going to sit in the fence?

  8. Joanna Nelson June 30, 2020 at 9:28 am #

    My heart goes out to all the families who have lost loved ones. My deceased colleagues, RIP. Social care workers stay safe.

  9. Aditi Joshi June 30, 2020 at 3:08 pm #

    I am so sad to hear about the deaths of our colleagues social workers. My heart goes to their families and loved ones. To remember them we should have their photos published in community care and do more to protect further deaths while SWs are continuing to work and taking risks!!

    • Arnold Kruger July 3, 2020 at 7:17 pm #

      We need a memorial in Community Care: not just names, but pictures too, of the 21 or more. We need to see their faces and their names to know and to celebrate them. Each of them lost their lives while living their values and helping others. They are our friends and our colleagues. Rest in Peace.

  10. Pat July 1, 2020 at 8:53 am #

    As usual social workers. And AMHP are still going out and on the front line, the silence of these deaths speak volumes, these heroes need to be acknowledged and given the recognition for there dedication. I worked in both these fields and have always recognised that as a profession we are not good at highlighting the fantastic work. Which is carried out. We need a public relations which is pro active and tells the country about all of the great work which is dine and how people’s lives are changed for the better by social care staff.
    RIP to all those staff who have given there lives.

  11. PAUL July 1, 2020 at 12:33 pm #

    Its a terrible time , yet we still don’t get it maybe jts because we are being lied to so often about how severe this outbreak is, I doubt we will really ever get to know the truth we are in a mushroom society and these people who have died in service are very brave, but that does not help the devastating loss to family and freinds these people have the last full measure of life and died in serving the most vulnerable in society we need to remember them and that rememberance should press for a full public enquirey not a royal commission or a public enquirey that could whitewash the enquirey , what I propose would be regional enquirey teams of those who work in the caring profession no lord this lady that but those who are boots on the ground being the panel in that enquirey

  12. Nikki July 1, 2020 at 10:47 pm #

    May their souls rest in peace, and may their families be comforted. Amen

  13. Jenny Eckersley July 2, 2020 at 6:59 pm #

    RIP from a retired social worker with 40 years in childcare and mental health

  14. Anon July 2, 2020 at 7:24 pm #

    Just awful. And for now, reading this, a heavy, heavy weariness has displaced my anger. Impacted as a professional. Impacted as a family. And we know these figures will be shy of the real numbers.

    Covid has highlighted what we have known for so many years now – that so many services are deeply fragmented .

    In MH social work here , employed by the local authority but located in the MH Trust , I was being given completely different sets of advice on PPE by the LA and the NHS. All professions were given different initial advice from their bodies and unions to that which was coming out of PHE. NHS located staff were given completely different advice on self isolation to the public.

    We closed down the EDs but left MH pts of all ages absolutely nowhere to go. Acute Trusts were given 2 hrs to discharge pts to care homes to make room for covid pts. Because the government downgraded covid from a highly infectious disease mid pandemic to allow this to lawfully happen.

    To homes, mostly in the private sector, with no PPE and no access to it. With known covid +ve pts sent and infecting residents and staff adding to the already known public risks.

    In MH we had absolutely nowhere safe to admit to so zoned wards ,where there werent, and still aren’t, ANY nurses trained in physical healthcare. No one thought to deploy from acute Trusts to the MH sector. And then we discharged inappropriately and also to care homes. Without testing pts prior to discharge.

    We couldn’t source PPE from the MH Trust for weeks. We honestly dont think they had a single clue about how to safely respond because in MH we dont do physical healthcare, let alone infection control.

    The LA shut down so didn’t give thought to those who were needed to continue working seeing ppl. And stated it couldn’t source as NHS acute Trusts were a priority ( although my NHS friends and family in that sector also couldn’t access).

    And no one in all this thought that maybe, just maybe, it would make sense to give vulnerable ppl, in touch with multiple professionals, carers and first responders ANY PPE whilst the argument over who is responsible for which employee was sorted out.

    Let alone the legal arguments that will be played out for years in the courts over where the govt public health responsibility ends and where the employers begins.

    I have got extremely angry at times. Global pandemic yes, but so much time and so many lives wasted in argument and prevarication.
    So sorry to all who lost ppl close.

    • Anne July 3, 2020 at 9:35 pm #

      I agree with the points you make. I work in mental health and had to fight for PPE but many staff are pushed to take risks or become complacent and there is a very odd denial culture. Theres an expectation that you just get on with it safety is paramount for patients clients and professionals. Social workers need employers to prioritise their health and wellbeing. I feel pathologising the individual continues to happen. Properly equip and support social workers and care workers. I’m very sad we lost good colleagues this should not have happened.

  15. Lynne GottShepherdgottshepherd July 3, 2020 at 3:33 pm #

    Having worked with many excellent children’s social workers this is dreadful news. Why is no one aware of this? Why is not on the news ?. Many of the s/we clients are frail desperate frightened and even dangerous,and hey are the only support. They should be supported and helped,my respect and sadness goes out to them.

  16. Rose Thompson July 3, 2020 at 5:27 pm #

    My deepest sympathy to all the families and friends may their soul S.I.P

  17. N. B July 3, 2020 at 5:37 pm #

    Condolences to all the family members of those social care workers who have lost their live. Rest in peace heroes of the care proffesion. Just to say that I hope there is an acknowledgement that many of the front line workers in social care are of ethnic minority background who statistics have shown are at greater risk of dying from the viruses if we contract it. So think on ministers, care directors, managers and HR department.

  18. Pauline McCarthy July 3, 2020 at 5:50 pm #

    I mourn for my fallen colleagues. Out on the frontline advocating for and protecting vulnerable children and adults. No protective gear, misled and coerced into being slayed by an invisible but known enemy. They are not cannon fodder, we must ensure their voices are heard, not forgotten and that the necessary recompense is made for them and to their own children and families.

  19. Christopher M Mitchell July 3, 2020 at 7:02 pm #

    This is a terrible and shocking figure and every one of these heroes deserves recognition for their selfless sacrifice.

    Our hopeless and chaotic cabinet are responsible for presiding over this tragedy and must be called to account in a public enquiry.

  20. Ebahi Ifidon-Ekuerhare July 3, 2020 at 7:44 pm #

    It’s so easy to type RIP then what … how do we move forward in order to keep the rest of us safe not forgetting that there’s a government paper speaking about the risk assessment for BAME workers who are more are risk ….
    We don’t tell ourselves the truth and that’s the sad reality.

  21. Wendy July 4, 2020 at 2:38 pm #

    Why do we not know the names of these social workers or even the local authority they worked for , if known we can pass on our condolences to their families every other profession information is given about the person. as usual social workers are not viewed as relevant. May they rest in peace.

  22. Pam July 25, 2020 at 6:51 pm #

    We have never stopped working throughout this pandic – just carry on as usual. What do i pay membership for to SWE, when no one stands up for us – can’t see any changes being made!!! We still are not recognised like the NHS, just go to B&Q. Was told that even though i have a blue card, only NHS get discount.
    It’s not nice the way we are treat in this country