NHS social workers’ pay deal to go through after majority backing from unions

Settlement involving 5% rise in 2023-24 and two one-off payments for previous year expected to appear in practitioners' June pay in England, as NHS unions in Wales put improved offer to members

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A proposed pay deal for NHS social workers in England will go through after unions representing the majority of members gave it their backing.

The government will now implement the deal, which amounts to a 5% rise in pay for this year, backdated to April 2023, in addition to two one-off payments for 2022-23.

UNISON, the biggest NHS union and one which supported the deal, urged the government to ensure the money was paid into practitioners’ June salaries. The Department of Health and Social Care said it planned to pay the money this summer.

What is the deal?

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

The deal will:

  • 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 means 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. For a social worker in the middle of band 6, this will take their pay from £35,572 to £37,351.

Protracted strikes

The settlement follows a protracted dispute that has involved several strikes by nurses and ambulance workers. However, the deal does not carry the support of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which represents most nurses, and Unite, whose members include ambulance staff, still being in dispute with the government.

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay (credit: HM Government)

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said he hoped their members would “recognise this as a fair outcome that carries the support of their colleagues and decide it is time to bring industrial action to an end”.

Despite the union backing the deal, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton criticised the government’s handling of the dispute.

“Proper pay talks last autumn could have stopped health workers missing out on money they could ill afford to lose,” she said. “The NHS and patients would also have been spared months of disruption.

“This pay deal must be the start of something new in the NHS. There cannot be a repeat of the past few months. Everyone who cares about the NHS deserves better.”

Deal on cards in Wales

Despite the Agenda for Change 2022-23 pay deal that sparked the dispute covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland, this deal only applies in England.

However, a settlement may also be on the cards in Wales, where a majority of unions are recommending their members accept a revised settlement for NHS staff, including social workers, from ministers.

This involves an additional 3% backdated rise for 2022-23, above the £1,400 increase already provided, with half of the 3% being consolidated into staff salaries.

As in England, staff would receive a 5% rise in 2023-24 should union members back the deal in consultative ballots that are currently taking place.

No improved offer for Northern Ireland social workers

The news is less positive in Northern Ireland, where most statutory social workers are employed by NHS health and care trusts. Not only has there not been an improved pay offer for staff, but its health budget will be flat from 2022-23 to 2023-24, in cash terms.

Its Department of Health said last week that “therefore makes no allowance for the increasing costs of running services and the rising demand for care across the population”.

“Consequently, 2023-24 will inevitably involve significant financial pressures across health and social care, with a material impact on service provision.”


One Response to NHS social workers’ pay deal to go through after majority backing from unions

  1. Chris Sterry May 7, 2023 at 3:10 pm #

    Yes, it has but is it enough, well no it is not, not for nurses and other NHS workers who have accepted and will not be for those still to accept and again for teachers and any others.
    But, there are workers still much worse off and this does affect the NHS, yes the care workers, those who provide care in care homes, home care, supported living, respite, hospices and others for both children and all adults. Many of these workers are on or just above the National Living Wage , which effectively is not a living wage because it is taxable. A living wage should be so not have tax deducted as the tax threshold should start at the National Living Wage. Even then, it would be so insufficient for the work care workers do.

    Like workers in the NHS, teaching and other professions, there are very real shortages of care workers, so many people are reluctant to enter the profession as they can earn much more in other occupations with far less responsibilities.

    This is and has led to a serious decline in the availability of social care which is bringing and has for some many years much more usage of NHS services adding to the so severe crisis already in the NHS. Not one real mention has been made about funding social care by this government or any of the opposition parties. Except this government has stated to delay funding, which was so short of what is required until 2025, social care and the NHS may not have that long, but no politician cares.

    The government found the money for King Charles III Coronation, even though there is a cost of living crisis, but not what really matters to the most vulnerable people in our Society. Charles has £millions, more likely £billions, but the government, or really we paid. Yes, it was a splendid occasion and may be some of what the country wished for, but there were much more urgent needs.

    Neither Rishi or Starmer mention social care and in fact neither do any of the other party leaders, so the writing is there for all to see, the further demise of social care and with it the NHS.

    None of us want a privatised health care system, but it is becoming so much closer, when will it become like the American system, for then we may all as well give up and die, which many are doing today, many yesterday and much more tomorrow.

    Nobody is bothered about safeguarding and Human Rights, well not in government or in all areas of politics.