A year in review: what happened in social work in 2023

We take a look back at the articles that resonated the most with social workers during 2023

The title 'a year in review' with snowflakes all around.

From the government’s proposed national rules to cap the use of agency workers and World Social Work Day to social work students’ financial struggles and journalists’ reflections after spending a day shadowing practitioners, here’s 2023 in review.


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In January, a social worker wrote about his experience in a placement he had been forced to leave after being treated with disrespect by staff.

The piece resonated with many practitioners, who took to the comments to share their own placement stories.

Here’s a snippet:

“The first indication that something was wrong at this placement was when I opened a door for a staff member who was carrying outdoor equipment. The staff member abruptly said “move” and brushed past me. I considered this to be extremely rude but dismissed it as I thought it may have simply been a one-off incident. However, similar such instances persisted.”


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(credit: vinnstock / Adobe Stock)

In February, the Department for Education proposed national rules to reduce the cost and use of locum staff in statutory children’s services.

Those included capping the rates councils could pay for agency staff so that locums were paid the equivalent of permanent staff, banning the use of project teams and barring early-career practitioners from agency work.

Months later, following consultation, the government watered down its original proposals, ditching plans to cap agency social worker pay to the level of permanent staff.


Dr Muzvare Hazviperi Betty Makoni with a group of overseas social workers supported by her organisation, Social Care Empowering Training and Consultancy

Pictured: Dr Muzvare Hazviperi Betty Makoni with a group of overseas social workers recruited through Morgan Hunt and trained by Social Care Empowering
Photo credit: Dr Makoni

In March, we marked this year’s World Social Work Day by interviewing social workers who have come to work in the UK from overseas. We spotlighted their strengths and brought awareness to the obstacles they faced.

“The values of social workers that I work with are second to none,” said Chris Armstrong, the business director of recruitment agency Morgan Hunt’s social care branch.

“Their natural empathy and solid, string and passionate direct work are unbelievable.”


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Following the news of the government shelving its plan to introduce the Liberty Protection Safeguards to replace the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, a piece by lawyer Tim Spencer-Lane set out what that would mean for social workers.


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In May, a poem from practitioner Jessica Taylor on the highs and lows of working in social work touched the hearts of many readers.


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In June, we wrote about the lack of financial aid social work students from England, Wales and Scotland received  while studying to join the profession.

We spoke to Emma, a single mother of two from Scotland, and Omar Mohammed, who, at 19, was travelling four hours a day for his course, working a part-time job and was the sole carer of his nine-year-old sister.

Here’s a snippet:

“[…]Literally every bit of free time I had was [spent working],” says newly qualified social worker Omar.

“I’d never go out or buy myself something unless it was a necessity. I’d never do something that I was interested in or engage in a hobby. If I ever had money, it would be spent on my sister. It was extremely tight, definitely a challenge.”


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In July, a major survey of over 1,000 children’s social workers in London and the South East found that discrimination was leading minoritised practitioners to quit permanent local authority posts for agency ones.

“The [black and global majority] workers we spoke to do not describe making this decision by choice, but rather expressing a feeling of being forced to do so due to poor experiences, lack of support and economic necessity,” said the Big Listen report.

Read our full rundown of the survey.


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In Community Care Inform’s July podcast episode, Dan – a care-experienced young person living in semi-independent accommodation – shared his experiences of, and advice for, social workers.

Dan shared his perspective on how social workers and services worked with him from his early teenage years, and what he would have liked to have been different.


Social worker on home visit

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At the end of May, four journalists from the Community Care team spent a day shadowing practitioners at Wandsworth children’s services.

Read all about the home visits, direct work, family therapy, unit meetings, genograms, small wins, difficult decisions, risk, trauma, and public transport. And snacks – never forget the snacks.


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In October, as Barbie took over cinemas worldwide, a social worker’s take on the infamous speech at the end of the movie struck a chord with practitioners.


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In November, unions agreed to accept employers’ local government pay offer for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, following an eight-month-long dispute.

The pay rise was £1,925 for staff outside London earning up to £49,950, with a 3.88% hike for those on higher wages than that. Outer London staff received a £2,226 rise while colleagues in inner London got a £2,352 increase up to a defined salary threshold.

The deal was worth about 4-6% for social workers, despite unions asking for a 12.7% pay rise in February to exceed inflation, which was then about 10%.

Read our full report.


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To round up the year, in December it was announced that a record 100,495 social workers in England had renewed their registration with Social Work England!

This was the highest proportion recorded in the four renewal rounds since Social Work England took over the regulation of social workers in England in December 2019.

What Community Care article resonated the most with you in 2023? Tell us in the comments below.

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