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Social worker: Salary and conditions

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  • There are no national salary scales available, unless you are employed by a local authority or healthcare trust. Even then, variations exist between jobs, employers and regions. Look at your local authority's website for an indication of pay.
  • Social workers for the NHS would typically start on Band 6 of the NHS pay scale, which is between £25,000 and £34,000.
  • Most local authorities would pay travel expenses for journeys made for business purposes.
  • Many local authorities are happy to negotiate flexible working hours and also have family friendly policies and childcare voucher schemes.
  • Working hours are normally around 37 hours per week. If you work as a residential care social worker, regular unsocial hours are normal practice. Occasional evening and weekend work is also necessary if working in child protection or fostering and adoption teams.
  • The work is office based, but with frequent visits to service users.
  • The sector in which you work and the structure of your organisation will affect how you operate. You may be the main professional working with the client but, increasingly, you will be part of a multidisciplinary team, working alongside other professionals such as therapists, health professionals, the police, legal services and education professionals.
  • Part-time work, job shares and career breaks are possible.
  • Jobs are available in most areas, although this depends on the size of the local population and the particular social work specialism.
  • The nature of social work practice can be both emotionally rewarding and demanding. Working conditions are often under-resourced and heavy caseloads are common.
  • All social workers are entitled to regular supervision sessions with a more experienced member of staff or manager, which allows the social worker to discuss cases they are working on and get support.
  • Travel within a working day is frequent. Absence from home at night is occasional.
  • Overseas work or travel is uncommon, although opportunities to work in developing countries do exist. For example, with organisations such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)  and with families in the armed forces through the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) .

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Written by Clare Dawson, University of Warwick
December 2013

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