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Slight growth in Scotland’s social service workforce

Publication: The Orkney News

Scotland’s social work, social care and children and young people workforce is growing. The Orkney News shows the figures and the importance of the Social Service workforce in the country.

Photo by Matthias Zomer on

In 2022, the Social Service workforce in Scotland grew to 211,510, an increase of 1.5% since 2021.

The figures were released with the publication of the Scottish Social Service Sector: Report on 2022 Workforce Data. The Scottish Government is currently working on delivering a National Care Service akin to the well-established successful National Health Service. The social service workforce makes up approximately 7.8% of all Scottish employment and includes a wide variety of jobs and types of provision.

Across most of Scotland, these services are provided through a mixture of private, Third Sector and public sector.

In Orkney, 1,260 people are employed in the Social Service Sector.

The three island areas, Orkney, Shetland and Na h-Eileanan Siar, continue to have the highest proportion of staff working in the public sector. In each of these authorities, the public sector employs at least 69% of the workforce.

The mixture of public, private and third sector provision in Scotland as a whole is illustrated in the maps below and the number of employed compared to the population density.

Many of these essential and often undervalued jobs are part-time. Out of the 211,510 workforce figure, 160,960 of them amount to FTE (Full Time Equivalent), which is an increase of 1.1% since 2021. 83% are employed on Permanent Contracts.

The increase in the workforce can be attributed to the extension of child care to care at home and to nurse agency sub-sectors.

Social Service provision is mostly a female workforce, with only 18% male. Just over half this workforce is employed full-time (30+ hours a week). For many women, the number of hours worked relates to other elements they have to factor into their working and home life balance, for instance, their own family care commitments.

Commenting on the figures SSSC Acting Chief Executive Maree Allison said:

“As Scotland’s social work, social care and children and young people workforce continues to grow it’s a good time to recognise the valuable contribution they make helping people live the lives they want but also their contribution to the economy .

“Representing one in 13 of all Scottish jobs there are lots and varied job roles available working with children, young people, adults and older people and we are working with Scottish Government and other key partners to promote care as a career of choice.

“Scotland’s ageing population means the workforce will need to continue to grow to meet increasing demand for services and our work supports workforce planning to meet that growing demand.

“It’s important too that we advocate for fair work and support the wellbeing of the workforce to make sure the trusted, skilled and confident workforce is properly valued for the work they do.”

The figures released also highlight the importance of the Third Sector and of volunteers in maintaining service provision. In Glasgow City the Third Sector is the largest employer – out of 20,700 employed, 10,300 are from the Third Sector. It is also important to note that the Scottish NHS also delivers a small number of services in Scotland. It illustrates the complex mixture of provision and range of services provided in this sector.

The pressures on the Social Service workforce increased during the Covid pandemic when on the front line of delivery, they kept the service they provide going through the most bleak days of lockdown. All this has a toll on health and well-being. Although it is difficult to evaluate how many staff have left as a result of burnout, the report states that only half of the staff present in 2021 are present in the same post in 2022.