Social workers in Scotland are happier with their workloads than their colleagues in other UK countries but most still feel overworked, a Guardian survey has found.
Over 1,400 UK social workers were questioned about their work-life, with 43% of respondents in Scotland responding that their workload was manageable, compared to just 29% in the rest of the UK.
Eighty-one per cent of Scots social workers said they enjoyed their jobs, the highest among the four home nations. But social workers who had been in the job less than two years were happier than those with 10 years or more in post.
Only a third of Scottish respondents felt they were paid fairly and almost one in five (19%) said they planned to leave the profession within five years. This was up from 12% last year, and represented slightly more than the UK average of 17%.
Asked what would make social workers stay, the most common answers were reduced caseloads (30%), better support from managers (30%) and a better work/life balance (22%).
Most respondents (85%) felt proud to be a social worker and valued by their manager (71%) and service users (71%). Three-quarters said they were motivated by a desire to make a difference and improve people’s lives. But 90% felt undervalued by the media.
“Social Workers are only of interest to politicians and media when society needs a scapegoat. All of the good work we do goes unnoticed,” said one respondent.
Contributing to a Guardian panel debate on the findings, SASW manager Trisha Hall said: "The Guardian's survey outcomes generally correspond with what members tell us, although it is fair to say that there is variation within local authorities and in areas of practice. Local authorities have suffered from budget cuts which have impacted severely.
“Children and Family social workers can find the volume and pressure of investigations and assessments overwhelming when such prevents them from having the time to make the relationships which may help to enable the family to make positive changes. Social workers within the new Health and Social Care partnerships can struggle with workloads, resource scarcity but also with recognition of their professional identity within the integrated set up.
“However social workers are a resilient and positive workforce and we find that where there is good leadership, a willingness to find constructive solutions and solid partnerships with people who use services, communities and other partners, social work remains a respected and brilliant profession. There is government commitment to support our agenda and SASW is committed to informing these consultations and discussions through the contributions of our membership."
A full report on the findings and on Trisha Hall’s panel response will be published in the next edition of PSW Scotland.