Social worker filled posts and vacancies six-monthly survey

31 Oct 2023

Analysis of the data collected as at 30 June 2023

This report presents findings from the first run of a proposed new six-monthly survey of local authority social work services (LASWS), which took place between June and August 2023. The survey asked for information on ‘practising social workers’, namely those in main grade social worker and senior social worker posts working within local authority social work services. It also asked for information on vacancies for practising social workers and about hard to fill vacancies.

The Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser (OCSWA) in the Scottish Government established a short life working group (SLWG) on social work workforce data in December 2022. It was set up to support the development of the National Social Work Agency (NSWA) by monitoring workforce trends, establishing demand for social work services and implications for recruitment, retention and training. The findings from the survey will feed back into the work of the SLWG and other intelligence and research that the group is looking to gather. This includes research into demand for social work services and a report due to be published later in 2023/24 by the SSSC on the inflows and outflows to the local authority social work workforce.

The report presents data on the number of social workers in post and numbers of vacancies based on responses from 25 local authorities and presents an analysis of the reasons why social worker vacancies are hard to fill from 29 local authorities. The total whole time equivalent (WTE) of the staff across the 25 local authorities represents around 74% of the total practising social worker workforce in Scotland. Therefore, the data presented in this report are not as complete as the data derived from our annual LASWS collection.

Some of the report’s key findings are presented below:

  • Compared to December 2018 the June 2023 survey reports a 7.7% increase in the WTE of practising social workers.
  • Compared to December 2022 the data collected in the June 2023 survey reports a 1.3% decrease in the WTE of practising social workers.
  • Between December 2022 and June 2023 the decrease in the WTE of children’s SWs (down 7.5%) was offset somewhat by an increase in the WTE of SWs employed in adult fieldwork teams (up 4.4%).
  • The data from June 2023 reported a large number of vacancies resulting in an overall practising social worker vacancy rate of 11.8%.
  • Vacancy rates varied by fieldwork teams, however high rates across the board suggests an increasing demand for social workers.
  • The main themes in local authorities reporting hard to fill vacancies were around having too few applicants overall, too few applicants with specific experience and/or qualifications and less competitive pay than other local authorities.



Additional files

Description File type File size(kb)
All tables .xlsx 27 Download
All tables .ods 14 Download
All tables  (compressed .csv files) .zip 5 Download 
All charts (compressed .png files) .zip 183 Download
List of pre-release recipients .xlsx 16 Download