- 03 March 2021
- 6 min read
What Do Social Workers In The UK Get Paid In 2021?
We look at how much Social Workers in the NHS and those working for Local Authorities are paid.
Topics Covered In This Article
Social Workers support people through challenging circumstances.
They help to direct them to specialist services and ensure they can live a safe and independent life, free from harm or danger.
Jobs are provided by local authorities, NHS Trusts and private companies. Social Workers operate in a variety of settings – from people’s homes and community settings to hospitals and specialist clinics.
Here, we look to answer the main questions around Social Worker pay, assessing starting salaries, average salaries, what the future holds and the potential career progression to boost your earnings.
What Is The Average Salary For A Social Worker?
Broadly speaking, the average salary for a Social Worker is approximately £30,000 a year.
But finding an accurate average is tricky.
That’s largely because the majority of Social Workers are employed by local authorities, who have the freedom to set their own salary rates.
The £30,000 figure comes from a combination of job boards and the latest industry stats.
What Is The Starting Salary For A Social Worker?
The average starting salary for a Social Worker is around £25,000.
However, starting salaries in the NHS are much higher, as it’s normally considered a Band 6 role.
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What’s The Most A Social Worker Can Earn?
Experienced Social Workers can often earn up to around £40,000 a year.
For higher salaries, further qualifications or changes in specialism would probably be required.
What Does A Social Worker Do To Earn This Salary?
The responsibilities of a Social Worker are varied and fluid – changing from one location or setting to the next.
However, in general the daily duties may include:
• Conducting interviews to assess needs
• Writing assessments according to specialised standards
• Offering packages of support to improve quality of life
• Working with other agencies and making relevant referrals
• Working closely with people from related disciplines including mental health or child protection professionals
• Giving evidence in court
How Much Does Social Worker Pay Vary Between The NHS, Local Authorities And Privately?
In local authorities, there is no fixed salary scale to match the NHS’.
However, it’s widely recognised that Social Worker salaries in local authorities start between £24,000 and £30,000 a year – typically lower than in the NHS.
In the NHS, Social Workers start on a Band 6 salary of £31,365 a year – rising towards £40,000 with experience.
Privately, salaries are broadly similar to local authority rates which are seen as the benchmark.
What Types Of Social Workers Are There?
Once you’re qualified, there are actually many different specialisms you can follow within social work.
To start with, you can consider whether you want to work with children or adults. Then, there are several different areas you might wish to focus on, including:
• Managing adoption or fostering processes
• Assisting children and families with child protection concerns
• Working with children in care
• Supporting young offenders
• Helping adults with learning disabilities
• Supporting vulnerable older people
It’s also very common for Social Workers to transfer from one specialism to another.
What is the career progression for a Social Worker, and how can you increase your earnings?
Promotion as a Social Worker typically means a move into a managerial position.
After a few years of experience Social Workers often become senior practitioners, team leaders or care managers.
Within these roles you normally manage other Social Workers.
The key to most of these career routes is obtaining an MA or MSc in Advanced Social Work.
These qualifications can usually be achieved part-time and while you’re employed.
The first senior post once you have this qualification under your belt would be an advanced social work practitioner.
This role would likely see you earn in advance of £40,000.
And with experience you could become a lead practitioner, with an average salary of upwards of £45,000 a year.
Many Social Workers also become practice educators, which involves supervising and teaching prospective Social Workers .
Salaries in this area vary enormously, and depend on your specialism, qualifications and experience.
What Does The Future Hold For Social Worker Pay?
While most of the nation’s focus has been on frontline NHS staff during COVID-19, the efforts of local authority workers like Social Workers haven’t gone unnoticed.
And several unions have been campaigning for a 10% pay increase for council-based Social Workers .
In August 2020, a pay increase was agreed.
It was above inflation at 2.75%, but well below the 10% requested. For this reason, not all of the unions involved were satisfied.
As ever, Social Workers in the NHS await updates to bandings, and elsewhere, salary changes are unregulated and harder to predict.
But community care, in which Social Workers play an important role, will become increasingly vital and overstretched as COVID-19 recedes.
It is essential that the government recognises this and ensures that salaries are generous enough to attract and retain Social Workers .
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