‘Social workers have among the most difficult working conditions of all equivalent professions’, is the key finding of new research just published in International Social Work journal. ‘This has detrimental effects on services for individuals and communities due to staff burnout, poor retention of key staff and high staff turnover in many places.’
The research is a long-term partnership between the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), Bath Spa University and Ulster University. It explores the working conditions of social workers around the globe, using a mixed-methods approach.
Suggested solutions include legal recognition of the social work profession, improved management support and better pay and conditions.
‘Social workers provide absolutely essential services in all countries around the world and are crucial to building functional societies and economies as well as responding to national or global emergencies’, said Dr Rory Truell, IFSW Secretary-General. ‘Yet they are expected to work in some of the most difficult working environments and frequently lack effective understanding and support from employing bodies. This is an exploitation of the goodwill of committed social workers and a failure of support for families and communities.’
Professor Jermaine Ravalier, academic leader of the research, commented: ‘This research uses well known international comparative methodologies to evaluate the working environment of social workers. The survey tools examine not only the physical environment but also levels of managerial activity and the psychological impact of working in stressful environments.
‘The outcomes from the data are stark’, concluded Dr David N Jones, Chair of the research steering group. ‘Whilst there are of course variations in the quality of working environments, overall social workers have some of the most difficult working environments of any comparable profession. We look forward to developing this research over the coming years and sincerely hope to see improvements from the rock bottom situation found in so many social work offices today.’
Notes for editors
Ravalier, J., D. Jones, R. Truell and P. McFadden (2022) “Global social work working conditions and wellbeing.” International Social Work. Published online 28 October 2022 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/00208728221112731
The research is being undertaken in a partnership between IFSW and Bath Spa University The Psychology Centre for Health and Cognition (in association with Ulster University Social Work Department). The first report on the pilot was launched at the online global social work conference in July 2020. An interim report from the first full survey was launched in the online Global People’s Summit in July 2022 with a fuller report being published in this article. It is planned to undertake periodic surveys in future years.
IFSW is the federation of national social worker representative organisations, including 144 national social work organisations in 132 countries.