Social Work England has released 2 new pieces of research about how social work is perceived in society, and how social workers feel about their profession.

The reports provide a snapshot into the social work profession in 2023 and look at the role of social work in society, what motivates people to become a social worker, challenges that employers are facing, and why some people are leaving the profession.

The findings show 74% of adults believe that social workers want the best for the people they work with, even though many felt that social workers were only talked about in public, such as in the news, when mistakes were made.


UK Fitness to Practise News

Colum Conway, Chief Executive at Social Work England, said:

“We are committed to continually working to better understand the complex landscape of social work practice and the perceptions held by the public. Promoting confidence in the profession is one of our strategic aims as a regulator and this research helps us to build a more comprehensive picture of how current perceptions can boost and undermine that confidence.

“It’s reassuring to see that members of the public, healthcare professionals, and social workers themselves, think social workers play an essential role in society. Those in training and in practice said that they came to social work because they wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and be fulfilled by a meaningful career.

“Despite this, only 1 in 10 social workers think they are well respected in society, whereas 44% of members of the public reported that social workers were respected. This apparent disconnect is interesting, and it’s important to understand why these perceptions of social work exist and if negative stereotypes in the media, TV, and film influence this.”

“Interviewees associated terms such as empathetic, trustworthy, accountable, and honest with the social work profession, alongside terms such as under-resourced and overworked.

“When looking at reasons why social workers had left their first role, though 25% said it was due to excessive workload, a similar amount (24%) said it was because they were promoted out of the role. Just over half of social workers (53%) say they are not likely to leave the profession in the next 5 years and this is highest for staff within the NHS (63%). These proportions are also consistent with similar research we commissioned in 2020 – there has been no change in social workers’ likelihood to leave social work.”

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