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Social workers leaving profession rises by 16%

The number of children and family social workers leaving the profession in 2021 has risen by 16% in a year, Department for Education statistics have shown.

The figures show that 4,995 children and family social workers left the workforce in 2021 - up 16% compared to 2020 and the highest number in the last five years.

“This increase in leavers may have contributed to a rise in the number of vacancies, which at 6,500 was also the highest number in the last five years,” said the report.

The total number of full time equivalent children and family social workers in 2021 was 32,502 in September 2021 - an increase of 2% compared to the same point in 2020.

There were 6,522 full time equivalent vacancies at 30 September 2021, up by 7% from 2020 and the highest number in the last five years. There were 5,977 agency workers at 30 September (FTE), a rise of 3% compared to the same point in 2020.

The sickness rate among children and family social workers was 3.1% throughout the year, up from 2.9% in 2020.

The statistics show that the average caseload (per FTE) for children and family social workers was 16.3, the same as the previous year.

Fifty five per cent of children and family social workers in 2021 were aged between 30 and 49 years of age, with 16% aged 20 to 29 and 7% aged 60 years or over. The overwhelming majority of social workers – 87% -  were female, higher than the 75% seen in the teaching profession.

At 30 September 2021, three out of five (60%) social workers had been in service at their current local authority for less than five years.

Ethnicity was known for 81% of children and family social workers in 2021. Of these, 23% were ethnic minorities (excluding white minorities), up from 20% in 2017. This change is mainly due to an increase in social workers from Black ethnic groups.

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