‘Devastating’ spending cuts leave over half of social workers thinking of quitting

Social work is facing a “crisis” because of years of spending cuts, threatening to “tear apart” communities, a union has warned.

Unison said its research revealed high levels of stress among social workers, with more than half thinking of quitting.

One in four of 1,000 staff surveyed said they were working more than seven hours’ overtime every week.

Virtually all of those polled said they could not do their jobs effectively because of reduced services, coupled with the impact of austerity.

Unison said its findings showed the “devastating” effects of the Government’s cost-cutting, with important community services now “barely effective”.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis (pictured), speaking at the union’s annual conference in Liverpool, said: “Social workers are dealing with the most vulnerable in society. When they say there are problems we all need to listen, and the Government especially.

“These are skilled and dedicated staff who care passionately about helping families in difficult circumstances. It adds further to their stress and anxiety if they feel people are being let down.

“A culture driven by targets and financial needs, combined with unmanageable workloads and financial cuts, is creating problems that could tear apart communities, and put vulnerable children at risk.

“There is a crisis in social work after almost a decade of cuts to local government. Ministers must act before the system and the people it cares for are damaged beyond repair.”

Quotes from some of those surveyed include:

  • “If we treated people with broken legs like we treat people with broken minds there would be a national outcry. It is an utter scandal” – Social worker, Leeds.
  • “We are now making decisions based on what we have available or can afford, rather than what a child needs, or stalling where possible to allow a child to reach an age where they no longer qualify for a service” – Social worker, Crossmichael, Scotland.
  • “We struggle to deliver vital services to young children and families because of the cuts. Nurseries are closing down, contact centres are shutting. There is a complete lack of venues to do direct work with families” – Social worker, Worsley, Greater Manchester.

A Government spokeswoman said: “Social work is only as good as the people who deliver it and it continues to be an attractive career option with more than 4,000 students enrolling on social work courses every year.

“This means there are more dedicated people on the frontline to offer much needed support to some of most vulnerable in the country.

“We have invested over £1.2 billion since 2010 in supporting both mainstream and fast-track qualifying routes into the profession.

“We are committed to supporting local authorities and other social work employers to meet their duties regarding workforce planning and helping them understand best practice in recruiting, retaining and developing staff.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jonathan Brady / PA Wire.