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Headline social work information

Data correct as at 2019/20

Next update due: February 2022

This report provides the key findings from the Adult Social Care Workforce Dataset (ASC-WDS) relating to social workers in local authority adult social service departments as at September 2020. Data on the children’s social work workforce is published by the Department for Education.

There were around 17,500 social workers employed by local authority adult social service departments across England as at September 2020, 1,900 in the independent sector and around 2,800 in the NHS. This report focuses on the 17,500 social workers employed by local authority adult social services departments.



The majority of the information in this report was collected in September/October 2020 and therefore refers to the situation at that point in time, during the pandemic.

Staff turnover rates and sickness rates are completed ‘over the 12 months prior to completion’ so contain information from around 6 months before the pandemic and 6 months during it. Skills for Care will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit on a monthly basis on dedicated webpages


Downloading the visualisation and notes about the data

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  • There are notes about the data when you hover over the ( i ) in the visualisation.
  • For information about how workforce estimates are created or rounding and suppression rules please visit our webpage on methodology.
  • If you require data that isn’t available in the visualisation or report below, please contact us.


Summary of key findings

  • The number of social workers employed by local authorities in England has increased by an average of 2.1% each year since 2016.
  • However, the total number of jobs in adult social services departments has decreased by 28.4% since 2011 despite increasing since 2017. 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 turnover rate for social workers in local authorities was 13.6% in 2020. This figure has decreased each year from 16.0% in 2016.
  • The vacancy rate for social workers in local authorties was 7.5% in 2020, equivalent to around 1,300 vacant social worker posts. This figure has decreased from 13.0% in 2015.
  • The average full-time equivalent salary for a local authority social worker was around £37,100 in 2020. This was similar to occupational therapists (£36,700) and allied health professionals (£38,800).



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