Do social workers feel valued by senior management?

Given the number of strikes in the past year, we asked whether social workers felt valued by their employers

Photo by Community Care

The past year has seen a number of social work strikes take place in England and Northern Ireland, with some still ongoing.

The strikes in England have mostly involved adults’ and mental health practitioners protesting against staffing issues and pay disparities with their children’s counterparts.

Social workers have spoken out about feeling ignored and undervalued by employers.

During a strike at Barnet Council, approved mental health professional manager Gill Robinson said the strike was the culmination of years of mental health services being “largely forgotten about” and “undervalued”.

Do you have a experience or opinion to share or write about? Read our guidelines page and contact our community journalist at

At Brighton & Hove City Council, the strike was described as a “last resort”, following a two-year campaign for adults’ social workers to be given a 12.5% supplement – as received by their counterparts in children’s services.

Similar comments from practitioners at the picket line have raised questions over whether social workers feel appreciated and recognised by their employers.

When questioned in a Community Care poll that amassed 420 votes, the majority of practitioners (78%) replied that they didn’t feel valued.

Only 15% said they felt “quite” valued and 6% said “very”.

Do you feel appreciated by the senior management at your workplace? Tell us about your experience below.

6 Responses to Do social workers feel valued by senior management?

  1. The voice December 2, 2023 at 7:32 am #

    I learnt that the value of the positive feedback/thanks from children and families is what makes me smile.
    I have had huge variety in managers/senior social workers/supervisors. Some great, others terrible. I got a certificate once for supporting a suicidal young person who ended up in care…and it did not feel right to get appreciated for what was a sad outcome for a family. The big SW awards and council events that celebrate social work feel empty in my experience, and lack service users voices – the social workers who do well are ones who comply to how Council’s think Social work should be done in our age of austerity.

    Equally I have never been sure that those who move into management represent the best social workers…the best social workers are those who stay on the frontline and sadly some leave, creating the reliance on nqsw and agency probably.

    • Molly December 8, 2023 at 9:26 am #

      Completely agree.

  2. David Smith December 5, 2023 at 3:49 pm #

    In a recent meeting where staff voiced concerns about buildings be closed, and having to relocate to another part of the city, our head of service explained we should “just be happy that you have jobs”

    We feel like a burden and senior managers treat us with contempt. They’re doing their best now to take a car allowance away as we come to the most expensive time of the year with inflation still higher than any pay increase.

    And they’re baffled why they cant recruit!

  3. Deborah West December 7, 2023 at 2:54 pm #

    I have worked with varied management personalized. The ones that are the best are supportive, have humour, show empathy. My experience of corporate is they pressurise social workers and line management and line management adopt the corporate approach with social workers. Unfortunately social workers are already pressurised because they are expected to work fast paced with constant cases in addition to other responsibilities. To the point complex cases maybe mismatched with a practitioner under skilled. Worse social workers are not professional with peers as they lose sight of what is important. When you hear a colleague swearing, see a colleague crying you know there is something management have done to create this. Worse still when you hear corporate making demands and line management saying skip mental capacity assessments to save time, you know besides the safeguarding duties, your practice could be put at risk and under no circumstances agree to it. Working from home is flexible but there are risks of working health and safety provision of office equipment and working in isolation. The line manager must include worker planning that includes supervision, training and take into account e.g. health, caring responsibilities. Things have changed since COVID. Cultural competency must be given priority in addition to address awareness and this is the responsibility of all staff. Until all issues are put in place, staff cannot thrive as healthy professionals.

  4. Blair McPherson December 8, 2023 at 2:20 pm #

    I’m a former social worker and someone who believes strongly in the professions values. I think that there are things social workers, whether working with young people or vulnerable adults, do better than other professionals in particular their focus on the individual’s total situation not just one element of their lives. In promoting, independence , dignity, choice and respect social workers challenge other professionals who are often risk adverse or think there professional training means they know best. I do believe that when allowed to do their job social workers can and do make a difference to people’s lives. My goodness though they do like to whinge !

    Social workers whinging is not a new thing, it is not something that has arise out of austerity, it isn’t a result of splitting children and adult services or to do with changes in the way social workers are trained it. It is not an individual thing as in every group has a person who is more cynical or less positive than the rest. It’s a group thing. Social workers as a group seem to need to whinge. May be its a copping mechanism, may be its an inferiority complex, maybe it’s a reaction to the negativity of the media or a general feeling of being misunderstood.

    I have friends who are teachers and they do whinge on social media. I have relatives who are nurses and some of them are not happy in their work but social workers are the champion whingers . Was there ever a change in the way social work was organised or delivered which did not result in a collective, persistent, moaning from the “professionals”. Social workers mantra appears to be, “they don’t know what they are doing”.

    Of course other professional groups complain but social workers have a reputation for complaining about unimportant things all the time . Although of course they don’t think they are unimportant.

    I think there is a basic flaw in the psychology of the profession which at the same time as feeling misrepresented and undervalued has an inflated sense of its own importance.
    Social workers don’t think that hospital consultants, GPs, ward managers, head teachers, lawyers or Clark’s of the court rate there profession and therefore their contribution as that important. If fact social workers don’t think there own senior management thinks them important. In this they are defiantly wrong. All these fellow professionals recognise that social work has something to offer, they just don’t think it has as much to offer as social workers think and certainly not as much to offer as them.

    So how could social workers change the way they are viewed ? On the one hand they need to be more confident in their professional skills and on the other they need to recognise often they are in a supporting not leading role. Most of all they need to stop whinging.

    Blair Mcpherson ex social worker former director

  5. Olive Onwualu December 21, 2023 at 12:38 pm #

    Senior managers or even middle managers who sadly are social worker don’t VALUE social workers. In some cases, you have senior managers you were their practice educators, they rose up the career ladder because of racism and nepotism. The very experienced practitioner is more knowledgeable than them, and also have more practice wisdom, but sadly, the experienced practitioner is not recognised or valued because of focus on MANAGERIALSM which one of the banes in social work. I am happy to share my experience because most committed social workers who have refused to grey out in terms of their social work values and personal values don’t get promoted and/ or have interest in joining the Managerialism CULT. I’, sorry I use the word CULT because that is the way managerialism culture operates. They encompass people with same values of herd mentality and people whose radars don’t pick up unfairness and inequalities.