Social workers and OTs go back on strike over pay inequalities

UNISON says dispute remains unresolved over £3,000 recruitment and retention payments received by children's social workers at local authority, but not their adults' colleagues

South Gloucestershire Council adult social care strike April 2023
UNISON members on the picket line outside South Gloucestershire Council's main office (credit: South Gloucestershire UNISON)

Adults’ social workers and occupational therapists have gone back on strike over inequalities in pay with children’s colleagues at their council.

The UNISON members at South Gloucestershire Council are walking out today (30 May) and on Thursday (1 June) in protest against the £3,000 recruitment and retention payments that children’s social workers at the authority receive, but they do not.

The union has been in dispute with the south west authority over the issue since last summer, leading to a three-day strike in April, however, UNISON said that it remained unresolved.

What is the dispute about?

The dispute relates to payments for social workers, advanced and senior social workers in children’s services at South Gloucesteshire, involving:

  • A £3,000 lump sum for recruits who have already passed their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) on successful completion of their probation.
  • A £3,000 annual payment for those with two years’ service with the council.

Neither of these are available to adults’ social workers or OTs.

Senior social worker and UNISON member Nick Fryer said it was inequitable for practitioners who happened to work in children’s services to receive a benefit not accorded to equally qualified colleagues in adults’ services.

Talks have not resolved pay dispute

“We will continue to make that point to the decision makers,” he added.

“Strike action is always a last resort, but staff are determined to take a stand on this important issue,” said UNISON South West regional organiser Jayne Jackson.

“Negotiations to date have sadly not led to a resolution. But only through talking will this issue be settled. The council must double its efforts to end the strike by paying up and showing it values all its social work employees.”

At the time of the April strike, a South Gloucestershire spokesperson said: “We are dedicated to responding to the issues staff tell us are important to them and we want to create environments where our workforce can thrive. We received positive results to our recent adult social care staff survey and the outcomes of the external health check for social workers with adults has shown that we are continuing to make progress.

“The council remains committed to engaging with UNISON to meet our shared ambition of investing in career development and preparing our staff for the future challenges social care faces.”


11 Responses to Social workers and OTs go back on strike over pay inequalities

  1. Old Skool SW May 30, 2023 at 5:37 pm #

    In solidarity.

  2. Anonymous Children's SW May 31, 2023 at 3:02 pm #

    I have a great idea. Why don’t some adults Social Workers come and join us in Children’s?…….thought not. The retention payment is there for a reason. The risks are higher to manage in Children’s Social Work and people quickly leave because it’s so hard. If you compare retention between both services, pretty sure the retention issue is in Children’s for a reason. It’s not a like for like comparison and is a completely differently job and skill set.

    • Mark b May 31, 2023 at 11:48 pm #

      Children’s social work is so much more difficult, and I’ve done both adults and children. That funding is there to entice staff to a role that is unrewarding, highly demanding and relentless. I cannot see how local authorities will be able to retain staff if this actually happens. There needs to be a reality check in government if they haven’t already had one already!!

      • Andrew June 1, 2023 at 2:52 pm #

        Not true, risks are not higher but fear of public scrutiny is greater risk. All human life is precious, of course as law cites the safety of children is paramount. There should not be a division of the “more entitled” among social workers, all social workers are being treated unfairly in comparison to health and education colleagues. Your comment shows niavity and plays in to the hands of government strategy and in all truthfulness a 3k retention payment is still inadequate irrespective of field of practice.

        • Linda Younh June 2, 2023 at 4:10 pm #

          Well said. All social workers need to unite and stand together. We have been underpaid for years and it needs to stop. Many professionals and workers employed by central government are paid more than social workers. We are a profession paid unfairly by local government with inequalities in pay between councils with some councils clearly unable to manage thier budgets and balance their books.

    • Claire June 1, 2023 at 10:49 am #

      Why social work is treated with disdain by politicians, managers, public explained in one self aggrandising uniformed comment. Look at us super hero social worker narcissism rarely matches reality. And I write as a children’s social worker supervising children’s social workers. Pitching ones supposedly superior “skill set”
      ,note the singular, against others without knowing what you are comparing is hardly the glowing testament assumed here. Tory social work in a nutshell.

  3. Alice bennettt June 1, 2023 at 11:38 am #

    People wish to specialise in different area- that is a choice, you cannot expect them all to come to childrens as it would leave vulnerable adults at risk. There is specialism and demand for both streams of services. When a service is struggling people need an incentive to remain that is why the retention payment is there. It does not discredit the hard work that is being done.

    There is retention payments for adults in local authorities within the West Midlands region due to shortages in staff, staff urnover, high caseloads and large waiting lists.

    Lets not downplay adult social services by saying “the risks are higher to manage in childrens sovial services” as that is an ignorant statement to make.

    Please be kinder and more considerate in your statements. I

  4. Tahin June 1, 2023 at 7:55 pm #

    I’m stealing “superhero social worker narcissism”. Now to find a way of weaving it into this years CPD.

  5. Mark Bentmam June 2, 2023 at 3:27 pm #

    I would return but never while SWE are there.

  6. Alex of Hanham June 2, 2023 at 3:59 pm #

    All local authority staff need a substantial pay rise irrespective of their role. This would unite all for a common objective.

    The Council wants to divide and pay less.

  7. Anon June 14, 2023 at 7:20 pm #

    Totally agree, was a very flippant statement made by the anonymous children’s Social Worker. And as Andrew said all human life is precious whether it is Adults or children and managing risks with both when case loads are high is very tough and let’s not forget its not unusual to be working with families in adult care that have children to care for and for whom without support from Adult care Social work the children could easily not be having thier needs met and so on an on the cycle goes, we all deserve more respect.