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Project aims to make it a happy new year for social workers

Internationally renowned expert on workplace happiness turns attention to England social workers

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Happiness: research will seek to create a happier workforce in England

A world-leading expert on workplace happiness has been drafted in to help make social workers in England happier and healthier in the New Year.

The drive comes in the wake of campaigning by BASW and SWU to improve working conditions including excessive workloads, long hours, high staff turnover, poor health and stress levels in the sector.

It is being led by the Government’s new What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care created to research ways of improving practice in England.

Among collaborators is Professor Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at Harvard Business School, who is internationally recognised for her work on employee wellbeing. University College London will also be involved in the project which ultimately could influence policy.

The What Works Centre is currently looking for expressions of interest from social workers, social work managers and senior leaders to help shape the scope of the research.

Michael Sanders, the centre’s executive director, said: "We're really excited about launching this partnership programme to bring together organisations working in children's social care with world-leading academics specialising in workplace wellbeing.

“You can’t have children's social care without the people making things happen every day, so working out how to help professionals become happier and healthier is an essential element of what works.”

Research commissioned by BASW and SWU carried out by Bath Spa University recently found working conditions had deteriorated over the last year for social workers in England.

Based on responses from almost 3,500 workers, it found working conditions were worse than nearly all other employees in public and private sector roles. Nearly half of social workers were dissatisfied with their job and four out of ten said they wanted to quit social work. The main stressors highlighted were high caseloads, bureaucracy and lack of resources for service users.

The What Works study wants to find ways to improve job satisfaction and engagement, productivity, work/life balance, work-related stress, turnover, and “other factors that impact on workforce wellbeing”.

It will seek to learn from good practice from local authorities, voluntary organisations and other social work employers that have high satisfaction rates among children’s services workforces.

Expressions of interest to take part in designing the research should be emailed to by 5pm 15 January stating:

  • A lead contact, including their job role, email address and phone number
  • Availability for a phone call in the week starting 21 January.
  • A description of your organisation (no more than one page in length)

Another call for research partners will be made in March before the project starts in April.