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Staying ahead of the new trends in pay rate and the temporary social care workforce

Posted on 15/08/2014 by Jamie Eaton in Category Local authorities
I recently wrote a piece in Local Government News that looked at the changing trends in the social care workforce, and how this affects pay rate and the labour marketplace. Clearly, budget cuts alongside ongoing recruitment problems in retaining temporary and permanent workers are a big concern to Heads of Social Services.

With the research from our Social Care Index, we were able to identify three key trends around pay rates and the workforce makeup of the social care sector that that Heads of Social Services should be aware of:

  • Increased demand for temporary qualified social workers (TQSWs)

  • Increased demand by TQSWs for a different method of employment

  • Increased mobility of TQSWs

The growing need for social care means an increased demand for qualified workers. To meet this demand, social care departments are increasingly turning to the support of temporary workers to deliver frontline services. Our Social Care Index has shown that in the 2013/14 financial year, there was a 14% increase in the number of TQSWs on assignment. We see that a high demand from Local Authorities and a low supply of candidates means TQSWs are becoming more demanding about their pay and working conditions.

Furthermore, our research suggests that that the vast majority (88%) of TQSWs are requesting to be paid via an umbrella organisation or are setting up as a limited company as opposed to a traditional ‘contract of service’ temporary worker. This means that social workers are making the most of their earning potential and recognising the opportunity to demand higher rates of pay.

Another key trend has seen TQSWs become increasingly mobile. Whereas in the past, workers might have sought employment close to home, the newly mobile worker is happy to travel during the week to take advantage of better pay and is therefore happy to work, in many cases, hundreds of miles from where he or she lives.

The upward pressures on pay rates, the trend of forming limited companies, and the willingness of social workers to work far away from their home areas are collectively contributing to a 3% increase in pay rates for TQSWs in 2013/14, and pay rates are expected to continue to rise.

Social workers make a positive difference to the lives of thousands of people and families across the UK and the pressure on pay rates is reflecting their vital role in society. While escalating rates are a headache for resourcing teams in Local Authorities, they can be better managed and controlled through greater collaboration amongst Authorities within local areas. Through more open dialogue with each other, Authorities can better understand individual organisation’s approach to pay and benefits, helping to alleviate some of the competitive pressures between organisations locally.

Another way to reduce the problem is to invest in more newly qualified social workers.  This can be done not only through competitive pay rates but also by supporting people in this challenging career choice through mentoring, training and other value added benefits such as paid for travel and free parking to keep staff retention high.

In my opinion, the most successful Authorities will be those that embrace collaboration with other Authorities locally and even nationally, that are open and quick to adapt to the changing candidate marketplace and that embrace a diverse workforce mix of permanent and temporary workers.​