The experiences and perspectives of agency social workers in England
One of the solutions to the shortages of social workers in England has been to employ social workers on a temporary or locum basis, often these social workers are called agency social workers as their contract of employment is with a employment agency rather than the social work employer. This paper explores the background to the use of agency social workers in the current context of government efforts to reduce the expenditure of public sector employers on agency staff. Data were collected through interviews with 40 social workers working with adults in England, in three diverse local authority settings; spanning those social workers whose careers in social work were in their early years; those with that were experienced and third group who while experienced and specialist were considering possible retirement or career moves. The aim of the interviews was to investigate motivations and experiences around this type of social work employment. The findings of the interviews are presented, with illustrations of ‘push and pull’ factors around agency working. The article concludes that agency working presents opportunities for social workers that may be within the power of social work employers to foster more generally, such as ways to minimise ‘office politics’ and to provide greater variety of work.