Dates: August 2019 – July 2021
Research Team: Dr Laura L. Cook, Dr Danny Zschomler
Funder: British Academy/Leverhulme Trust

Experienced social workers carry out vital work with some of the most vulnerable families in society. However, retaining experienced practitioners within the workforce is an ongoing challenge for local authorities. The average career span of a qualified social worker has been estimated to be as low as 8 years, compared to over 15 years for nurses and doctors. Little is known about the experiences and career trajectories of social workers who have remained in the profession beyond eight years. It has been suggested that a strong sense of professional identity may promote worker resilience, helping social workers to stay in the profession. There is also evidence that workers may adopt a defensive professional identity to help them survive in the profession. However, little is currently known about how child and family social workers develop a sense of professional identity over time, and what enables them to stay in the profession in the long-term.

Findings and Impact

The findings from the project will be published in late 2021 and will be presented at the annual CRCF conference in London. Summary findings and recommendations will be distributed to workforce development leads in Local Authorities in England. Journal articles and further conference presentations are also planned.