Special Report: Recruitment and Retention in Social Care

As the social care workforce expands, the number of vacant posts remains high, prompting councils and policymakers to develop new ways to support practitioners to boost staff recruitment and retention.

Recruiting and retaining the right social workers can be the difference between a successful children's services department and one that fails, both in terms of quality of provision and outcomes for children.

It is why councils, policymakers and children's services leaders are putting increased emphasis on understanding what factors contribute to creating the best working environment for social workers and other care professionals to do their jobs well.

Decent employment terms and conditions are important, but research shows that professionals value training opportunities, good practice support, and manageable caseloads even more highly.

Despite recruitment and retention being under the policy spotlight, the number of vacant children's social work posts remains stubbornly high, even though the overall number of staff has grown in the past year.

The average working life of a children's social worker is less than eight years and ensuring the right conditions are in place for professionals to remain in the sector is vital for the future.

CYP Now's special report assesses latest research on social work employment trends, summarises key policies affecting the workforce and identifies four examples of innovative practice among local authorities.

Click on each article for more:

Policy context

Practice examples:


West Sussex Council

Return to Social Work

North Yorkshire County Council

Research evidence:

The research articles this month explore recruitment and retention in children's social care.

Social work and social care staff shortages and high staff turnover have been challenging children's services in England for the last decade. Social work workforce statistics in England published by the Department for Education (for year ending 30 September 2017) show that 34 per cent (full-time equivalent) of children and family social workers had been in service at their current local authority for less than two years.

Research shows that social workers' experiences of support during their newly qualified year has strong effects on their professional confidence and wellbeing. Kinman and Grant highlight that the provision of evidence-informed initiatives to protect the wellbeing of early career social workers may lead to improvements in resilience-building and wellbeing. Relatedly, the paper by Hussein et al. highlights factors that are strongly associated with newly qualified social workers being less likely to leave their jobs. There is also a need for development training for more experienced social workers and team managers to increase social work retention in local authorities explored in the article by Searle and Patent. The final article by Hanna and Lyons identifies a specific set of challenges that need to be considered when contemplating international recruitment of social workers.

Building Resilience in Early-Career Social Workers: Evaluating a Multi-Modal Intervention

Recruitment, Retention and Role Slumping in Child Protection: The Evaluation of In-Service Training Initiatives

Organisational Factors, Job Satisfaction and Intention to Leave Among Newly Qualified Social Workers in England

Challenges Facing International Social Workers: English Managers' Perceptions

CYP Now Digital membership

  • Policy and research analysis
  • Evidence-based case studies
  • Leadership advice
  • Legal updates
  • Local area spotlights

From £170 /year


CYP Now Magazine

  • Policy and research analysis
  • Evidence-based case studies
  • Leadership advice and interviews
  • Legal updates

From £136 /year