Average pay for adult social workers up for first time in five years but salaries no higher than 2012 levels

Vacancy rate for adults' practitioners continues long downward trend and stood at 7.5% as of September 2020, official figures show

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Photo: md3d/Fotolia

Story corrected*

Adult social workers in English councils received their first real-terms pay rise in five years last year, but pay was no higher than it was in 2012, official figures have shown.

The 2% rise in median full-time wages, to £35,800 as of September last year, followed four years in which average pay had stayed still or fallen.

However, NHS Digital’s annual report on the adult social services workforce showed that average pay for social workers was no higher than it was in 2012 when inflation – according to the government’s preferred consumer prices index (CPI) measure – is taken into account.

Annual pay rises for most council social workers in England are determined in large part through the National Joint Council for Local Government Services (NJC), a collective bargaining mechanism involving employers and the major unions.

The unions – GMB, Unite and UNISON – accepted a rise of 2.75%, in cash terms, for 2020-21, but have made a claim for 10% for 2021-22, to redress past pay freezes and cuts and recognise council staff’s role in tackling the pandemic.

Employers will only respond to the claim after the 6 May local elections.

Vacancy rates continue to fall 

The NHS Digital statistics showed that the vacancy rate for adult social workers has continued a long downward trend, reaching 7.5% as of September 2020, down from 8.6% in 2019, 10% in 2017 and a high of 12% in 2015.

However, there was only a marginal rise in the number of social workers employed  by councils, from 15,870 in 2019 to 15,900 in 2020.

While there was no change in the balance of women (82%) and men (18%) in the workforce, there was an increase, from 25% to 27%, in the percentage of staff from Black, Asian or ethnic minority groups. This was almost entirely driven by a rise in Black staff, from 15% to 17% of the social worker workforce.

* The story originally said that average pay was no higher in 2020 than in 2013. In fact, pay was no higher than in 2012. We apologise for the error.

One Response to Average pay for adult social workers up for first time in five years but salaries no higher than 2012 levels

  1. A Man Called Horse February 28, 2021 at 9:58 am #

    I think that we are probably facing a prolonged “pay pause” to use the words of Rishi Sunak. It will not be called Austerity part 2 but that of course is what it will be and what it will feel like for Social Workers. The mantra of do more for less has been a theme since at least as far back as the banking crisis in 2008 and clearly like it or lump it, take it or leave it. You will likely be told that the bill for the pandemic £400 Billion and rising must be paid for and that you must make a contribution via higher Council Tax, pay freezes and this is crucial expect to have lower living standards for many years to come. A narrative that is likely to hurt you personally with higher Council Tax, higher utility prices increases that are way above the rate of inflation and probably higher food prices and petrol. Cuts to the poorest peoples income, mainly the people we work with will be justified on the basis that it is fair to the taxpayer and will generally receive approval because obviously people on Universal Credit can afford it. Expect them to come for your pension as well with further rises in the pension age and further attacks on public sector pensions justified by the state of the nations finances and will have massive public opinion agreeing with it as you have something that they the general public don’t have a gold plated pension regardles of the facts that the average public sector pension is just £4000 a year. The Northern Powerhouse rebranded as Levelling up will become “levelling down” for years to come. The poor will be thrown under a bus so the narrative will be how lucky you are to still have a job, to still have a pension. The Social Workers who have supported the Conservatives and there are many of them for sure will generally keep quiet about their political views and support this agenda to level down, like the three wise monkeys they will see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing. The next few years are going to become very difficult and you will watch as the usual, suspects Amazon, Apple and the largest and most able to pay for this crisis continue to make massive profits and pay relatively little tax. If you want to get a better idea of what is ahead a book by Naoimi Klein the Shock Doctrine is a good start. Only a crisis gives the ruling class a real chance to reset the state, hollow out welfare and condition the population to expect less.