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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

Nominate your English social workers of the year (England only)

Do you know a social work team whose contribution deserves national recognition? Entries for the 2024 Social Worker of the Year Awards are currently open.
Now in their 18th year, the awards are about recognising outstanding social work practice and celebrating the positive impact of the profession. UNISON is sponsoring the Team of the Year Adult Services award. This award is open to all multidisciplinary social work teams who have made a big difference through their outstanding work with adults.

So please help us gain the recognition which great social work deserves and nominate your social work team of the year.

See the full categories of awards

Campaigning

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:

UNISON recommends social workers reject the employers pay offer for 2024

UNISON is consulting social workers and other council staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on the employers’ pay offer of a flat rate increase of £1,290 (pro rata’d for part-time and term time only workers.) Members are being recommended to reject the pay offer. For more information about the pay offer and how to join our NJC pay campaign click here.

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.

The laws around children and immigration are complex and constantly changing. The first edition of the guide for UNISON social workers in England was written in July 2019. In over 4 years, the law has changed significantly, no more so than the passing of the Illegal Migration Act 2023. Social workers have also had to navigate and understand the EU Settlement Scheme, the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and significant delays in the asylum system. The Guide was updated in May 2024 to reflect these changes – see the revised Guide in our resources section.

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

Resources