Research in Practice to lead a partnership supporting Department for Education reforms to the social worker workforce

Published: 23/08/2023

Author: Research in Practice

Research in Practice is delighted to be awarded a 20-month contract to lead several planned reforms to the social worker workforce funded by the Department for Education.  

The children’s social care sector is facing significant social worker retention pressures and challenges with child and family social worker recruitment. Research in Practice will lead a partnership with King’s College, London, Essex County Council, and a team of skilled associates, to support several Department for Education planned reforms to social work. 

National Workload Action Group (NWAG) Research in Practice will act as secretariat and independent facilitator for the NWAG, aiming to translate ideas from the group and deliver solutions intended to reduce unnecessary workload drivers that take social workers away from direct time with children and families. 

Social worker retention – Develop, test and produce tools and resources to support employers to adhere to the social work employer standards. By supporting local authorities to meet these standards and by developing effective workforce strategies that enable positive working conditions and organisational culture, this aims to support the retention of social workers.  

Agency social workers – Develop, test and produce tools and resources to support local authorities to engage agency social workers effectively, collaboratively and in-line with the proposed national rules (following the expected publication of the Government’s response to the recent consultation in September 2023). 

The work will involve careful consideration of a wide range of stakeholder views. The model includes working with a network of local authorities, coordinated by Essex County Council, who will review, test, and implement ideas. Their expertise, together with the views of people accessing social work support, will ensure that solutions are practical and focused on people accessing services.  

King’s College, London will bring many years’ experience of undertaking research with the social work workforce, working with a team of research associates specialising in social work practice, organisational resilience, wellbeing, diversity, and inclusion. The Research in Practice team includes specialist advisors and technical experts with hands-on experience of supporting workforce strategy.  

Research in Practice, King’s College, London and Essex County Council are pleased to contribute to these important and longstanding issues and excited to be able to do so in a way that is collaborative, creative, and inclusive of diverse perspectives.  

Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, Claire Coutinho, said: 

I recognise the increasing challenges local authorities are facing with workforces. So, I am delighted that Research in Practice, together with their delivery partners Essex County Council and King's College, London, will be working with us on this vitally important agenda. Together, they will draw on a wealth of expertise to arm local authority leaders with the tools they need to boost social worker recruitment and retention and to enable social workers to spend more time where it matters the most, with children and families. This is part of the government’s ambitious and wide-ranging reform to children’s social care backed by an initial investment of £200 million.

We expect to publish regular updates on this work – if you would like to receive updates, please send your contact details to