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Social workers call for more part-time roles

Social workers have urged their employers to offer more part-time roles to help address the recruitment crisis in the profession.

The call comes after research by the Social Workers Union revealed that employers across the country are failing to offer part-time working conditions.

Figures show that of 6,471 job adverts analysed on Total Jobs, Community Care and The Guardian on 20 April and 20 May 2022, just 1,212 (19%) offered part-time or flexible hours.

While Scotland has 31% of vacancies available part time and Northern Ireland 37%, just 15% of vacancies in Wales are part time.

The Social Workers Union has long called for more part-time work opportunities to be created for social workers, in order to improve working conditions, provide opportunities for those who need part-time work and improve retention of social workers. 

The Government recently confirmed that hundreds of thousands additional social work assessments will be needed when reforms to adult social care and the cap on care costs come in from 2023/24.

It has been reported that Councils will need to recruit more adults’ social workers to deal with the assessments and reviews.

Carol Reid, National Organiser for the Social Workers Union, commented:

“Many social workers, often by necessity rather than choice, have to work no more than two or three days per week, the rest being taken up by unpaid home-caring commitments or other important roles. 

“The opportunity to undertake part-time work appears to be particularly difficult when looking for qualified social worker roles. We need employers to wake up and realise that they are missing out on expert and committed staff due to their failure to offer part-time posts.”

Carys Phillips, chair of the Social Workers Union and a practising social worker, said:

“Part-time and job-share posts can be agreed as part of the flexible working policies, but this opportunity is seldom promoted or encouraged.

“The opportunity for career development is often stalled with assumptions that part-time equals career abandonment and oftentimes this means career stagnation. This needs to change to ensure part-time opportunities are encouraged and supported.”

Another social worker from North West England, commented:

“In my experience I left my full time NHS Social Worker role just as the pandemic started due to caring for a close family member: I planned to find a ‘part time’, or agency role within reasonable travelling distance from home, which would allow me to continue working whilst meeting my family’s needs.  

“However, despite devoting much of my spare time and energy searching for a part time role, I remain ‘out of work’ as a paid Social Worker – keeping up my professional development with unpaid roles.

“Even when roles say ‘full time preferred, but part time may be considered,’ when I contact the manager responsible the reality is they want someone full time, therefore any part time applicants will be low priority in the application/selection process.

“It is frustrating for me to hear of the current recruitment and retention crisis in Social Work, with staff shortages, high vacancy rates, and high caseloads, all having an impact on the wellbeing of Social Workers.”

Deb Solomon, a social worker from Derbyshire, added:

“In order for organisations to be inclusive, flexibility is essential to retain staff with protected characteristics. Some Neurodivergent staff can really benefit from part time working, and the positives can be seen in productivity, retention and wellbeing. The lack of part time roles is contributing to the high levels of burnout and not taking advantage of the skills and creativity the neurodivergent workforce bring.”

John McGowan, General Secretary of the Social Workers Union, said:

“With growing demand from social workers for part-time roles and an increasing need to recruit social workers, you’d think employers would be jumping at the chance to offer flexible working conditions.

“We often hear about staffing shortages in social work, but part of the solution is staring employers in the face: offer more part-time or flexible roles.”

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise campaigns.