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Two thirds of social workers say they cannot complete all their work in their contracted hours

Most social workers say they are struggling to finish their work in their contracted hours, while just over half reported not feeling able to manage their current workload.

21/03/24

Two thirds of social workers say they cannot complete all their work in their contracted hours

A landmark survey of social workers’ thoughts about their jobs and the state of the profession has found, once again, that many professionals are feeling overworked and under-resourced.

The BASW Annual Survey of Social Workers and Social Work finds that social workers are happy working in the profession but staffing levels, access to resources, workload, cuts to local services and the funding of social care remain areas of core concern.

Two thirds (65%) of respondents report not being able to complete all their work during their contracted hours; while half (50%) reported not feeling able to manage their current workload. Just under half (46%) felt that excessive workload was the biggest pressure facing them and their jobs.

“Everyone appears to be working on an escape plan from social work, due to the stress, poor pay and lack of support,” one respondent said.

Despite this, the survey of more than 1,200 social workers provides important insight into the positives of the profession as well as the challenges, finding that the majority of respondents also report being happy working in the profession.

Over half (56%) stated that they either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I am happy in my current job,” compared to a third (32%) who responded that they disagreed or strongly disagreed. The remainder chose either ‘not applicable’ or did not respond.

Peer support remained the bedrock of positive experiences in the workplace, with 45% of respondents saying it had a positive impact on their workplace; and 44% saying appropriate level of management/supervision has a positive impact – an increase from 32.27% in 2022.

Many of the issues raised in this year’s survey remain the same as from the previous three years, which BASW says indicates that change isn’t happening, or isn’t happening quickly enough for the workforce.

“In large numbers, social workers continue to tell us in our annual survey that their working lives are at least frequently frustrated by lack of resources and inadequate staffing and are too often downright hostile making it impossible to do what social workers know is right to serve their communities,” Ruth Allen, BASW CEO said.

“UK wide statistics on poor retention and difficulties in recruiting show that our survey findings are not anomalies.”

The findings also included a shocking number of social workers reporting experiences of bullying, discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Four in ten (41%) reported having experienced bullying, harassment and/or discrimination in the past 12 months, or were aware of someone that had. Respondents who said they had experienced or witnessed bullying or harassment were asked a series of follow-up questions, with 58% saying they had personally been a victim of bullying, harassment and/or discrimination, and 53% said that someone had personally confided in them about their experiences of bullying, harassment and/or discrimination.

“Expectations were made unrealistic, we were set up to fail, we were harassed and told we were not performing well enough. Gradually we all left for other jobs and that service is now failing,” one professional said.

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