Social worker pay 57% higher in councils than independent sector

Hourly pay gap higher for social workers than for any other adult social care role, shows Skills for Care annual workforce statistics

Pay gap image
Photo: Andrey Popov/Adobe Stock

Average pay for adult social workers is 57% higher in local authorities than in the independent sector, official data has revealed.

The hourly pay gap was higher for social workers than for any other job role in adult social care, showed Skills for Care’s annual state of the adult social care sector and workforce report.

Estimated average hourly pay for local authority adult social workers was £19.75 in 2021-22, compared with £12.56 in the independent sector.

The £7.19 hourly pay gap compares with a £1.47 difference for occupational therapists and one of 58p for nurses, while the next biggest gap, for registered managers, was £4.58.

Hourly pay gaps for different social care roles

Source: The state of the adult social care sector and workforce 2022, Skills for Care

In its report, Skills for Care estimated there were 23,500 filled social work posts in adult social care, a large majority of which (17,300) were in local authorities, with about 2,500 in the independent sector and the remainder in the NHS.

‘Ongoing concerns about fair pay’

In response to the figures, British Association of Social Workers professional officer Liz Howard said: “The gap in pay reported in the latest Skills for Care report highlights ongoing concerns about fair pay for all social workers across the sector.

“Social workers are being impacted by the cost-of-living crisis with half of respondents to our recent survey stating they have considered leaving the profession, with 10% stating they are having to use food banks.

“BASW and the Social Workers Union advocate for good working conditions for all social workers that includes pay that increases in line with inflation. We urgently need stability in the workforce to improve retention of good social workers.”

Nadra Ahmed

Care Provider Alliance chair Nadra Ahmed

On behalf of independent providers, Care Provider Alliance chair Nadra Ahmed said the figures illustrated the funding gap faced by its members compared with the public sector.

She added: “On behalf of the services who struggle to recruit and retain staff, the Care Provider Alliance (CPA) repeats our call for a government-led review focused on creating a new career-based pay and reward structure for these essential workers. It’s not a simple issue, so the review must involve employers, commissioners, staff, people who use services and their families.”

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5 Responses to Social worker pay 57% higher in councils than independent sector

  1. Sandy October 28, 2022 at 9:37 am #

    The headline is not the whole story about pay and conditions ofcourse but if it puts a stop to the wailing about the assumed injustice of how supermarket workers are better paid and treated than social workers please print it every week.

  2. Ann October 28, 2022 at 2:43 pm #

    All I can say is that there must be quite a number of Local Authorities paying more than ours is!

  3. Sally Smith October 28, 2022 at 4:11 pm #

    Not the whole story at all. I’m an independent (private) social worker paid directly by my clients and I charge between £50 -£95 per hour for my services. This enables me to offer pro bono support too, but this is at my discretion

  4. Clare Owen October 28, 2022 at 6:30 pm #

    Social Workers must train to degree level or higher. The job they do is complex with high levels of responsibility. I worked as a care worker for 7 years, and would not have expected parity of pay with Social Workers. Of course care staff should be paid better wages, but I’m not sure what the point of this article is, or the s it suggesting that Social Workers should be paid less?

    • Mithran Samuel October 30, 2022 at 4:51 pm #

      Thanks Clare.
      Apologies if the article was unclear on this but the comparison is between social workers working for councils and social workers working in the independent sector.
      Best wishes,