Children and family social workers
Children and family social workers are social workers registered with Social Work England (SWE), formerly the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), working in a local authority in a children’s services department or, if working in an authority where the services are joined up, a social worker that works primarily on children and families work. Children and family social workers are employed and paid directly by the local authority.
Agency workers are children and family social workers not directly paid by the local authority. These may be social workers who are paid by an agency rather than the local authority or who are self-employed.
Headcount is a count of all individual children and family social workers regardless of their working pattern. In instances where a social worker holds more than one post, only one post (the more senior role where applicable) is counted to avoid duplication.
For headcount at 30 September of the reporting year, duplicates are removed based on local authority, Social Work England (formerly Health and Care Professions Council) identifier, date of birth, gender and ethnicity. This provides a count of the number of individual social workers regardless of their working pattern.
For starters during the year duplicates are removed based on local authority, Social Work England identifier, date of birth, gender, ethnicity and start date.
For leavers during the year duplicates are removed based on local authority, Social Work England identifier, date of birth, gender, ethnicity and leaving date.
Duplicate records for agency workers are not removed, with each record regarded as a separate individual.
Full-time Equivalent (FTE)
Duplicates are not removed from full-time equivalent (FTE) figures. FTEs are derived by aggregating the total number of hours that staff are contracted to work and dividing by the standard hours for their grade. In this way, part-time staff are converted into an equivalent number of ‘full-time’ staff. This allows for meaningful comparisons of measures such as caseload across local authorities.
FTE figures exclude records for social workers for whose FTE was recorded as zero; this was 0.7% records for children and family social workers in post at 30 September 2022, compared to 0.5% in 2021 and 1.0% in 2017.
Starters are social workers who joined a vacant children and family social worker post at a local authority in the year ending 30 September. This includes social workers who have previously worked in the same local authority, but in a non-child and family social worker role, and children and family social workers joining from another local authority.
A move or promotion from one child and family social work position to another within the same local authority is not counted as a starter. Similarly, social workers returning from maternity or sick leave are not counted as starters.
Refer to the data quality section for details of data quality issues regarding this measure.
Leavers are social workers who left a children and family social worker post at a local authority in the year ending 30 September. This includes social workers who are staying at a local authority, but moving to a non-child and family role, for example moving to adult social care, and those continuing as children’s social workers but moving to a different local authority.
Leavers also include social workers who have begun a career break, those seconded out of an organisation or those leaving the profession altogether. They do not include social workers who have started maternity or sick leave.
A move or promotion from one children’s social work position to another children’s social work position within a local authority is not counted as a leaver, unless the social worker left employment at the local authority in between these roles.
A case is defined as any person allocated to a named social worker, where the work involves child and family social work. This may include:
- an individual child allocated to a social worker (for example, a family of three siblings where each child is allocated to a social worker counts as three individual cases) including those on a child protection plan, children in need, fostering and adoption cases and care leavers
- a carer or carers allocated to a social worker for the purposes of fostering or adoption.
Cases may be held by social workers regardless of their role in the organisation and not just those specifically in a ‘case holder’ role.
The number of cases held is typically smaller than the number of children in need at 31 March. This may be explained by a number of factors, including different count dates for the data collections and variance in the interpretation of the department’s guidance.
Some local authorities have raised issues around reporting the ‘number of cases held at 30 September’ data item and linking cases to social workers at an individual level.
The above issues should be taken into consideration when interpreting caseload figures
Sickness absence is the number of working days missed due to sickness absence during the year ending 30 September. It is possible that this measure of sickness absence does not give a full picture of capacity shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic; for example, workers may be working from home whilst shielding and unable to carry out face to face work.
The Vulnerable children and young people survey has been collecting information on social workers unavailable to work due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
The number of FTE vacancies within the local authority at 30 September. This is an aggregate (local authority-level) number collected by the local authority.
Age and gender
Age and gender breakdowns are provided at both FTE and headcount for:
- Social workers in post at 30 September
For children and family social workers in post at 30 September (including those who started during the reporting year), age is derived from the date of birth recorded in the census and is their age at 30 September of the reporting year.
The age of leavers is the age of the child at family social worker when they left their post at the local authority.
Gender is taken from the 'gender' data item collected in the census.
Ethnicity groups are based on the ethnic origin data item collected in the census and are provided on a headcount basis.
From 2021 onwards children and family social workers whose ethnicity was recorded as Chinese have been included in the ‘Asian’ ethnic group, whereas previously they were included in the ‘other ethnic group'. As a result of this change, 2021 data for these two ethnic groups is not directly comparable with earlier years.
Children and family social workers whose ethnicity was recorded as Chinese are included in the ‘Asian’ ethnic group for each of the four years (2019, 2020 ,2021 and 2022) of the role by ethnicity data.
Time in service at local authority
Time in service is derived from ‘Role Start Date’, which is collected in the census. Time in service is a measure of the total time in years that a social worker has been employed continuously in any children and family social worker role at their current local authority, rather than only the time they have spent in their current children and family social worker role.
Time in service breakdowns are provided for both FTE and headcount for:
- Social workers in post at 30 September