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A day in the life of social work

Research from Community Care and UNISON

What does a day in the life of an average social worker actually look like, and how does it feel? What are the stresses and strains? What are the rewards that keep practitioners doing their jobs, despite the difficulties caused by financial cuts?

In an attempt to get to the bottom of these issues, Community Care and UNISON asked more than 2,000 social work professionals to describe their day on 21 September 2016 to get a snapshot in time of the lives of social workers. This report analyses their responses, and compares them with the findings of a similar survey we carried out in 2014 to see how life has changed.

We found some disturbing trends that indicate a profession on the brink of burnout including very high levels of emotional distress experienced at work, high levels of abuse, complicated caseloads and working long hours without breaks. There have been some positive improvements, such as in the number of employers offering formal caseload management systems and an increased amount of time spent with service users. But, despite these improvements, it is clear social work remains a profession under enormous pressure.