Pay boost on cards for NHS social workers as government and unions settle protracted dispute

Government offers practitioners in England on Agenda for Change contracts two one-off payments for 2022-23 and 5% rise for 2023-24, with unions recommending agreement to members

An illlustration of a salary rise
Photo: Cagkan/Adobe Stock

Story corrected 4 April 2023

NHS social workers are set for a pay rise after the government and unions settled a protracted dispute that has seen multiple strikes by nurses and ambulance staff.

Under the deal – which will now be put to union members – staff on Agenda for Change contracts in England* would receive two one-off payments for the 2022-23 year and a 5% rise in 2023-24.

Unions including UNISON, which represents an estimated 40,000 social workers across all sectors in the UK, have recommended their members accept.

What is the proposed deal?

Staff on NHS Agenda for Change contracts, including approximately 3,300 social workers in adults’ services in England, had been given an increase of at least 4% in 2022-23, with newly qualified practitioners getting 5.5% (£1,400). This was well below the rate of inflation, which was 10.1% in the year to January 2023, meaning pay has fallen in real terms for all staff, one of the causes of unions’ dispute.

The government’s proposed deal would:

  • Give all staff an additional one-off 2% rise for 2022-23. For a social worker in the middle of band 6, currently earning £35,572, this would mean a payment of £711.
  • Provide them with a further one-off payment, worth at least £1,250, with the precise level determined by experience and pay band.
  • Increase pay for Agenda for Change staff by 5% in 2023-24, above the 3.5% the Department of Health and Social Care had initially proposed. For a social worker in the middle of band 6, this would take their pay from £35,572 to £37,351. The Office for Budget Responsibility expects inflation to average 6.1% during 2023.

‘A fair pay rise’

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it could “guarantee that there will be no impact on frontline services or the quality of care that patients receive as a result of this pay offer”.

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation.”

For UNISON, head of health Sara Gorton said: “If accepted, the offer would boost pay significantly this year and mean a wage increase next year that’s more than the government had budgeted for.

“This is better than having to wait many more months for the NHS pay review body to make its recommendation. UNISON will now be putting this offer to the hundreds of thousands of health members in the union in the next few weeks, recommending acceptance.”

*The story originally said that the improved offer applied to staff in Wales and Northern Ireland on Agenda for Change terms, but it is only for those working in England. We apologise for the error.

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