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Half of social workers consider leaving profession after carrying out £600m of unpaid overtime

Social workers across the UK are carrying out more than £600m worth of unpaid overtime, a study has found.

The research, by Bath Spa University and supported by BASW and the Social Workers Union (SWU), found that 92% of the 100,000 registered social workers across the UK are working an average of 10 hours of unpaid overtime every week.

This equates to around 480 hours every year, or 64 days, per person which means that social workers in the UK are working £644,736,000 worth of unpaid overtime every year.

Over 50% of current social workers are considering leaving the profession within the next 18 months due to the stress of too many demands on their time.

Dr Ravalier, who carried out the research, said: “What our research has revealed is that the majority of social workers are actually deeply fulfilled by their work but the satisfaction they feel can no longer outweigh the lack of support they are experiencing.

“Deep budget cuts are forcing social workers to take on more cases than ever, putting them under pressure to deliver a service to people that are often vulnerable with fewer resources. In order to keep up, they are simply giving away days of their personal time.

“If this keeps up, and the social workers we spoke with do leave the profession, local authorities will be forced to pay for contract workers who are expensive, transient, and certainly won’t be working lots of free hours.”

The study found that working conditions for social workers across the UK, irrespective of job role, are extremely poor, apart from peer support from colleagues.

Alarmingly, respondents also described that there was a culture of institutional racism in local authorities with some respondents stating that individuals are “undermined and overlooked” due to their race and others being “surprised at the level of prejudice in social work settings”.

Social workers with a disability described a lack of reasonable adjustments for their disability at work.

Dr Ravalier is now working with the SWU and BASW on recommendations to present to the government. SWU and BASW are also lobbying MPs and Peers in Parliament, liaising with employers’ organisations across the, liaising with other unions representing social workers on joint actions and investing in dedicated SWU staff resource to carry the work forward.

Dr Ravalier continued: “The government has enjoyed years of huge savings in the form of conscientious employees giving up their own time. The funding black hole that many predict we are facing almost certainly does not take this into account, so the situation is likely to be much worse than thought.

“If we do see a mass exodus then these costs will have to be taken into account – a crisis is definitely looming and thousands of people, including the elderly, the very young and those with health issues, are at risk of slipping through the net. With this evidence in hand, the government needs to consider its spending position on social care very soon and inject a great deal of money into the sector.”

UK Social Workers: Working Conditions and Wellbeing Report available here

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