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Tackling the dilemma of recruiting specialist adult social workers

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Tackling the dilemma of recruiting specialist adult social workers

At the recent spring seminar for The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, Skills for Care chief executive Sharon Allen questioned whether a national recruitment campaign for social workers in adults' services is needed. There is a significant shortage of experienced specialists and such a high demand for these roles to be filled, so how do we attract people to fill these vacancies and to protect the vulnerable adults who need them?

“What is the story we are telling about adult social work? What are the rewards? What is the fulfilment you get from the job? We are not telling these stories well enough. So I want to ask the question – what else is needed to encourage people to think about a career in adult social work? Is it time for a national recruitment campaign?” For these questions which Allen posed, as a specialist recruitment consultant for adult social workers I have my own ideas on how they can be answered.

The biggest challenge I have, is accessing those individuals who possess all of the skills required for this rewarding career path, but don’t realise the wealth of options available to them. I always ask the professionals I work with why they got in to social work, and what their motivations are for doing such a challenging job. Many of them often tell me that they have spent time caring for a disabled or elderly relative, and afterwards realised that they could actually pursue this as a fulfilling career. With an aging population and a growing rate of life expectancy, there will be an ever-increasing need for skilled social workers specialising in adults to provide the level of care our society deserves. 

We also need to capture a younger audience before they take degrees in other subjects, and make it clear to those interested in further education that social work is a very rewarding option for their career. Students are ambitious people who invest a lot of money in their futures, and will choose careers which can offer long-term career progression and development. Greater effort needs to go towards making it clear that a career in social work can offer a clear path into senior management and excellent, fully justified salaries.

I suspect the major reason salaries within social work are not more widely talked about is because the work is public sector and the industry is funded by the taxpayer, therefore making it taboo to talk about the financials. Of course applicants must be passionate about improving the lives of others, but we must also appreciate the ambition of our young people and demonstrate where social work can take you in ten or twenty years’ time.


Our consultants are dedicated to placing qualified social workers in their perfect roles throughout the UK. To speak to a consultant about your career, contact us on 0118 948 5555 or email