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Major survey of social worker workforce uncovers serious challenges and pressures many face

The London Innovation and Improvement Alliance has released results of a survey which involved 52 local authorities in the South East of England and generated over 1,000 responses from social work managers, students, and agency workers as well as council-employed children’s social workers.

The findings reveal that 88% agree or strongly agree that they can make a difference to children and young people through their work with the majority feeling valued in their roles, with 66% agreeing or strongly agreeing.

However, the survey also provides fresh evidence of longstanding workforce concerns. Almost 40% of respondents found their workload unmanageable. Around 20% of respondents from local authorities stated that they intended to work for an agency in future.

Another key finding of the report is the more negative experience of ethnic minority social workers. The impact of racism and discrimination was a recurring theme in the focus groups and also with Local authority social workers from ethnic minorities more likely to cite the cost of living as a major concern and to be considering leaving their posts to work for agencies instead.

Mac Heath, Director of Children’s Services at Milton Keynes and Workforce Policy Lead for the South East Region, said: “It is encouraging to have confirmation that many of the workers spoken to as part of the Big Listen were positive about their role as local authority employees, feeling that they were able and supported to make real improvements for the children, families, and communities they work with.

“However, there are key messages that we must listen to. We are committed to working together as councils at local, regional, and national levels to help retain and recruit the high-quality people we need.”

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Published on 27th July 2023