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Social Work

UNISON is the largest union in the UK and the biggest representing social workers, with over 40,000 members in the sector.

Social work is among the toughest professions. But there is strength in numbers.

We negotiate nationally, regionally and locally to improve pay, terms and conditions and job security for all social workers. UNISON representatives help to ensure a safe working environment.

We campaign to improve employer standards and provides training and briefings on a range of professional topics and skills.

Key Issues

Our Social Work Manifesto sets out UNISON’s view on how we see UK social work in the 21st century. The manifesto explains both how we see the profession now and how we see it evolving in the years ahead including:

  1. Improve social worker working conditions
  2. Promote a positive image of social work and social workers
  3. Invest in social worker development
  4. End austerity and rebuild public services
  5. End privatisation of health and social care

UNISON Social Worker Digital Guide

We have produced a new practical interactive digital guide in collaboration with Community Care, to support social workers in maintaining their health and wellbeing at work.

In a survey of UNISON social workers last year, members wanted more support for their mental health. As well as rising caseloads, they said new ways of working are impacting on them and the people they work with.

Access the guide

Learning for Social Workers

UNISON Social Work members get access to a huge range of learning opportunities, to help you deepen your understanding of the issues you encounter in your working life. With hundreds of courses available to UNISON members, our Skills Academy offers a great opportunity to learn what you like, at your own pace. Many of our courses contribute to the development of the knowledge, skills and competencies of a social worker as part of your Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Access the training

Student Members

Studying and training to be a social worker is exciting but can be stressful and challenging at times also. UNISON is the biggest trade union representing social workers and our branches and networks are always available to support you if you need help.

Join as a student member for only £10 a year to access to the many benefits of UNISON membership.

Join UNISON today

Social Worker of the Year Awards

UNISON congratulates the winning Team of the Year, Adult Services, at the Social Worker of the Year Awards

Now in their seventeenth year, the Social Worker of the Year Awards are about recognising outstanding social work practice and celebrating the positive impact of the profession. As a regular sponsor of the event, UNISON sees the awards as an opportunity to pay tribute to the great teamwork and high-quality professionalism at the heart of excellent public service and social work. This year UNISON sponsored the award for Team of the Year, Adult Services. There were five finalists in this category and the winner was the Mental Health and Wellbeing Team at Essex County Council. UNISON National Secretary, Mike Short, presented the award to the Essex team at the awards ceremony on 3 November.

Essex’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Team operates as a team of 13, comprising of social workers, community support workers, a targeted employment officer and an occupational therapist – among others. They work county-wide and are focused on early intervention and preventative support work for adults. Their impressive and impactful work is seen not only through work they carry out with individuals, but on a more ‘community wide’ level. They actively engage around the county, raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing, joining events and festivals, and ensuring businesses and community groups are well informed.

Viewed also as a team of great educators and collaborators, they are in the process of setting up a Domestic Abuse group, which will utilise outdoor space to support women most in need. This follows on from existing group work, which sees them running a closed Men’s Mental Health Group. Referral rates for the team’s support have risen significantly since the start of the pandemic, and the professional collective has responded impressively. Notable outcomes for adults who have been in receipt of their care, include – gaining support with neurodiversity, both for accessing a diagnosis and subsequent services; addressing root causes such as trauma; return to work or education and feeling empowered to support others because of their experience.


We campaign nationally on behalf of members and the sector to protect and improve social workers’ pay, terms and conditions and job security.

Our current campaigns include:

Social Worker Pay

UNISON is recognised for collective bargaining by councils/trusts. Unlike BASW/SASW/social workers union. This means UNISON negotiates your pay, conditions of employment and pensions. It also means your employer is required to inform and consult UNISON on any workplace changes they are proposing.

UNISON is calling on social workers and other council staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to vote for strike action in response to the employers’ pay offer of a £1,925 rise for full-time staff outside London, £2,226 for those in outer London and £2,352 for those in inner London, pro-rated for part-time and term time only workers.

Find out more

In Scotland, UNISON – with Unite and GMB – submitted a ‘fair and decent’ joint pay claim to COSLA calling for a £3,000 flat rate increase to all spinal column points (based on a 35 hr working week) a minimum hourly rate of £12 per hour. This pay claim is for the period 1 April 2022 to March 2023.

Find out more

Say No to National Accreditation and Assessment Scheme

UNISON welcomes the decision of the Department of Education (DfE) to scrap the National Assessment and Accreditation Scheme (NAAS.) UNISON has campaigned for NAAS to be scrapped from its inception. Millions of pounds have been wasted on an unnecessary scheme when robust systems were already in place to ensure standards.

Regions and branches are thanked for all their efforts in campaigning against NAAS and members applauded for holding tight. We are now monitoring what will be NAAS’s replacement. DfE say a new model will be in place by the end of 2022

Up to Standard – The Standards for Social Workers Employers in England

The Standards for employers of social workers in England set out core expectations of employers which enable social workers to work effectively and safely and applies to all settings social workers are employed in. The Standards are currently only voluntary but UNISON is campaigning to get all employers to sign up.

Safe Haven

Social workers are on the frontline of the government’s attempt to create a hostile environment for asylum seekers and refugees.

Social workers are rejecting this role and standing up for ethical practice. UNISON is determined to support our members and help them in their work and have produced guides to support social workers in promoting the interests of refugee and migrant children and their families.

Standing up for Social Workers

Social workers play a crucial role in supporting the most vulnerable and make a real difference, yet the media is only interested when something goes wrong. UNISON has commissioned a series of films featuring UNISON members Angela, Evelyn and Istvan that look at the importance of social work and how we support the profession.

Watch Angela’s film

Watch Evelyn’s film

Watch Istvan’s film