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Social Work

UNISON is the largest union in the UK and the biggest for social workers, representing 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

Student Members

Join UNISON as a Social Work student for just £10 a year.

Studying and training to be a Social Worker is exciting but can be stressful and challenging at times also. UNISON is the biggest Social Work trade union 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


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.

Supporting Social Worker Health and Wellbeing

Employers must ensure social workers have a safe working environment – especially in the wake of Covid-19. Community Care and UNISON have produced a free expert-written resource – Supporting Social Workers in 2021 – as an interactive digital guide, to provide social workers with tools to help support their mental health and wellbeing.

Say No to National Accreditation and Assessment Scheme

Social work urgently needs investment. But instead, the government is pushing for unnecessary tests for social workers in England. Both Social workers and UNISON are opposed to accreditation tests, which takes precious time away from children and families.

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 published by the Local Government Association on behalf of 16 sector stakeholders including UNISON. The Standards are voluntary and UNISON is campaigning to get all employers to sign up.

Safe Haven

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

They are increasingly being expected to deny social work support to people with no immigration status, despite important legal protections.

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.

Social workers should do all they can to promote a child’s interests, using all the legislation at our disposal and challenging any unethical decisions not in line with our codes of practice.

We have produced English and Scottish guides to support social workers in promoting the interests of refugee and migrant children and their families. A Welsh version is in production.