The number of UK social worker jobs being advertised fell for the fourth consecutive month in September, figures have shown.
There were 12,960 unique social worker job postings across the UK last month, the recruitment sector’s umbrella body has revealed.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which represents agencies across the economy, released the figures as part of its regular labour market tracker, produced with research body Lightcast.
The figure is above pre-Covid levels – it was 9,070 in February 2020 – but marks a fall from a high of over 18,000 in May and June this year.
It is also below the total in September 2022 (13,815), a time that coincided with the latest official data on the local authority social work workforce in England. This revealed that the full-time social worker vacancy rate had risen from 16.7% to 20% in children’s services, and from 9.5% to 11.6% in adults’ services, over the preceding year.
Councils ‘managing greater demand with fewer workers’
Despite the fall in the number of job postings over the past few months, the REC said the challenges in recruiting and retaining social workers had not abated.
“There was a really significant demand for social work services as an outcome of Covid,” said its deputy chief executive, Kate Shoesmith. “Local authorities reported an increase in need and service users. We also heard about how the needs of service users were more complex than ever and that the workforce was straining under pressure from that heightened demand.
“This fuelled concern about people leaving the social work workforce altogether. Things have not changed much as of today, leaving local authorities having to manage greater demand with a lower supply of workers.”
Shoesmith said the agencies the REC represents “have been a big part of the solution to overcoming labour shortages”.
However, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has raised significant and ongoing concerns about the behaviour of some agencies, particularly the practice of only supplying locums to local authorities as teams, rather than individuals, driving up costs and leaving authorities with less control of their practice.
The ADCS welcomed the news but said it was disappointed that the DfE was not planning to implement the restrictions in their original form. The REC, which has opposed the rules, welcomed the opportunity for further consultation on how they would work.