Social workers spill the beans
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Health and Social Care

We know 2020 has been a busy year for our workers.

We’ve also been busy behind the scenes ensuring our clients have access to the people they need as they wonder how to pull the next rabbit out of the hat in response to Covid-19.

When social workers come to us for help with the next stage in their career, their reasons are many and varied. They do all share something, though – their universal desire to make a difference in people’s lives.

This theme was picked up in the 2020 edition of Social Lives, a survey of UK social workers conducted regularly by the Guardian since 2008. Public services editor, David Brindle said: “This year’s survey was carried out before Covid-19 struck and turned social work on its head” but the primary headline was that social workers are still proud of what they do, and that the key motivation for staying in the profession is helping people.

Respondents also highlighted the challenges they face every day: limited resources, trying to achieve a work/life balance and an unmanageable workload.

Respondents also drew attention to a worrying trend, which is certainly a cause for concern at PPR. Agency workers, in contrast to their non-agency colleagues, say they are less likely to enjoy their work or be proud of being a social worker.

Pros and cons for locums

The survey drilled down into social workers’ perception of locum roles: Better pay is considered to be the main benefit, with flexibility, variety and a better work/life balance also featuring as positive factors.

Of course, we recognise many of these points and we continue to see the value of interim roles and recommend them to many of the social workers we have got to know over the years.

Even some of the drawbacks cited by survey respondents ring true. No one likes to think they're losing out on benefits and training opportunities, but locum life suits lots of people really well, and we’re committed to working with employers to ensure that the locum workforce is valued and nurtured. This is a rich pool of agile, energetic and committed individuals: We know because we interact with them every day.

Pressure points

In spite of its pre-coronavirus timing, The Guardian’s survey is a useful reminder of the ongoing issues affecting morale, productivity and longevity amongst social workers. We can assume that its highlighted pressure points – limited resources, work/life balance and workload – will have intensified during 2020.

Nevertheless, David Brindle points out that social workers’ response to the public health crisis was professional and fuss-free. They retained their focus on ensuring that children and vulnerable adults continue to be protected and supported, and “it would be a fitting thank you if government and employers … were now to respond constructively to some of the concerns that social workers voice in this report”.

PPR consultants are in constant contact with social workers and their employers. If you have feedback as to how we could help improve your day to day experience, we’d like to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.