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Headline social work information

Data correct as at September 2021

Next update due: February 2023

This page provides the estimated number of social workers employed by local authorities in England, and information about recruitment and retention, demographics and pay rates. Information is correct as at September 2021. Data on the children’s social work workforce is published by the Department for Education.

There were around 17,300 social workers employed by local authority adult social service departments across England as at September 2010, and an additional 2,000 in the independent sector and around 3,300 in the NHS. This report focuses on the 17,300 social workers employed by local authority adult social services departments. 

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  • For information about how workforce estimates are created or rounding and suppression rules please visit our webpage on methodology.
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Summary of key findings

  • The number of social workers employed by local authorities in England as at September 2021 was 17,300.
  • There was an increase of 1,100 social worker jobs since 2011 (+6.7%), whereas the total number all jobs within LAs decreased by 44,300 jobs (-27.8%) over the same period. Social worker jobs have generally been retained by local authorities during a period where many other jobs have been outsourced to the independent sector.
  • The social worker turnover rate in adult social services departments was 15.0% in 2021, equivalent to around 2,400 leavers in the previous 12 months.
  • There were around 1,600 vacant social worker jobs in local authorities as at September 2021, which is a rate of 9.5%.
  • Social workers had an average of 10.3 sickness days in 2021, which equates to around 160,600 working days lost. Social workers had the highest average number of sickness days compared to other regulated professions employed by local authorities.
  • Social workers had an average of 10.1 years of experience working in adult social care and 5.5 years in their current role.
  • Social workers were more ethnically diverse than the overall adult social services departments’ workforce. Almost a third (29%) of social workers were identified as having a black, Asian and minority ethnic background, compared to 17% across all job roles.
  • The mean full-time equivalent salary for a social worker in local authorities was £38,000 as at September 2021.
  • Between 2012 and 2021, the nominal full-time equivalent salary of social workers has increased by 16.5% from £32,600 to £38,000. However, in real terms the salary is the same as in 2012.


Monthly tracking

Monthly tracking of vacancies, total staff, occupancy rates and sickness is published here.



Related reports 

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