Number of UK social worker job postings falls for fourth consecutive month, figures show

13,000 figure is above pre-Covid levels but marks a fall from over 18,000 in May and June this year, reveals Recruitment and Employment Confederation

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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.

Recruitment and Employment Confederation Labour Market Tracker

Source: Recruitment and Employment Confederation

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.

Last month, the Department for Education (DfE) announced it would proceed with national rules on the use of agency social workers, but in diluted form compared with its original proposals.

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.

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4 Responses to Number of UK social worker job postings falls for fourth consecutive month, figures show

  1. Neelima November 9, 2023 at 1:56 pm #

    I want to switch my profession from teaching to a social care worker, working with children but every time I apply, I get rejected. If it’s because I don’t have any experience or special training required for this role, then with relevant training provided by the employer, I’m sure a lot of people like me will be interested in this sector.

    • Shimima November 10, 2023 at 9:50 am #

      You need a social work degree. Also I wouldn’t, it’s no better than teaching, if not worse with less prospects.

    • Joe December 6, 2023 at 12:39 pm #

      Look at the Step up to social work or Frontline training route, that will use your current qualification like it’s a foundation degree and then top up the training needed to become degree qualified as a social worker. Most LA’s that take part then will also offer employment and at least do your ASYE with them. Many like mine also offer onward permanent employment.

  2. Georgiana Mensah November 10, 2023 at 8:55 pm #

    The failure to retain staff is due to the lack of wage increase. Retention of any. Professional staff retention in modern times should not be underestimated.

    May families have now to to secure the safety of their health as well as the health of their loved once. Hence this department also has to reconsider their financial welfare for their workforce crew or labour market.