DfE figures for children’s social work workforce show vacancies up 21%

The Department for Education have released the findings of its annual census of local authorities in England, which surveys the number of children and family social workers as well as agency social workers, employed in local authorities. The census was first taken in 2017. Figures quoted are  full-time equivalent.

The survey found that the total number of children and family social workers in a local authority post was  31,600, a fall of 2.7%  from 2021. This represents the first annual decrease since the census started in 2017.

girl sitting on grasses

The number of agency workers (child and family social workers not directly paid by the local authority) had risen 13% to 6,800, the most ever recorded.

The Average caseload  (a case being any person allocated to a named social worker, where the work involves child and family social work) of 16.6 is an increase on 2021, a rise driven by the lower number of social workers, as the number of cases remained consistent.

7,600 vacancies were recorded, an increase of 21% on the previous year and the highest number in the series. One in five positions were vacant of which 69% were covered by agency workers.

For the first time since the census began there were fewer children and family social worker starters than leavers. A starter is defined as a social worker who joined a vacant child and family social worker post at a local authority during that period, a leaver one who left a child and family social worker post. There were 4,800 starters over the year, a decrease of 13% compared to 2021 and the lowest in the series. Conversely there were 5,400 leavers, an increase of 9%.

The Children’s Services Omnibus which was published last December found that 70% of local authorities were not confident they would have enough permanent child and family social workers to meet their needs over the next 12 months.

As we recently reported, children’s social care is set to be re-vamped in England with £200m in funding allocated to launch a new strategy called Stable Homes, Built on Love.


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