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Children’s social workers leaving the profession rises

The rate of children’s social workers leaving the profession has risen from 7.2% to 8.6% in just a year, Department for Education figures have shown.

man leaving

On 30 September 2021, the attrition rate of children’s social workers leaving their local authority was 11.2%, and while 2.6% were leaving to become a locum social worker, 8.6% were leaving the workforce completely.

The attrition rate of social workers leaving local authority employed children's social work for 2020 was lower at 9.3%, with a full attrition rate of 7.2% and an attrition into agency rate of 2.2%.

The figures emerged after the government pledged to increase support for social workers including on leadership, recruitment and retention and improved data sharing in response to the final report of the independent review of children’s social care.

“It is possible some social workers in the full attrition out of children's services in local authorities group may have moved into private, independent, or voluntary children’s social work, may have moved into adult social care, or be on a career break,” said the report.

“It is also possible that this is an over-estimate of the number of social workers leaving local authority employed children's social work, as some social workers may start their new role after 1 October 2021, so will not be observed in this reporting year of data. We cannot yet quantify the scale of this,” the DfE report added.

The highest rate of attrition into children’s social work was among social workers aged between 20 and 29 - three times higher than social workers aged 60 and over. The highest rate of attrition by age was in social workers aged 60 and over, where almost a quarter of children's social workers aged 60 and over left a local authority employed children’s social work role.

Agency rate varies widely across the country, with some local authorities employing no agency workers and therefore having an agency rate of 0% (Rutland, Brighton and Hove, North Yorkshire, Leeds, Kensington and Chelsea, and Kirklees) and others having an agency rate of over 40% (Newham, Slough, and Trafford).

One-third of the social workers who had a caseload at 30 September 2021 held 20 or more cases per FTE, compared to the average of 16.3 reported in the children’s social worker workforce statistics.

The independent review of children’s social care recommended that legislation is introduced which will allow government to set national social worker pay scales, which align with progression through the already established Early Career Framework, and increase recruitment and retention of social work staff.

Children's social work workforce: attrition, caseload, and agency workforce

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