Landmark new study publishes first insights to help keep children safe

Keeping children safe is important, anyone would agree. But some of the people committed to helping the most vulnerable children and young people – child and family social workers and their organisations – are facing considerable challenges. Among them, recruitment and retention of high-quality social workers – one of the biggest risks to the future delivery of children’s services.[1]

A landmark new study, funded by the Department for Education, looks to change that. The first results from a study to understand social workers’ motivations and experiences of entering, staying and leaving the profession were published today (read the report here).

IFF research, leading a research consortium with Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Salford, are pleased to be at the forefront of tackling the challenge of social work recruitment and retention.

The findings provide a comprehensive picture of the issues facing child and family social workers and the factors influencing job satisfaction and retention. Overall, the majority of social workers who took part in the survey were motivated to enter the profession for altruistic reasons, found their job satisfying, felt loyal to their employer, and planned to stay in local authority child and family social work in the next 12 months.

Most were positive about their line manager, that they were open to ideas and recognised when they had done their job well. When asked about various aspects of their job, satisfaction was highest for having scope to use their own initiative and the sense of achievement they get from their work. The majority of social workers also felt their entry route had prepared them well for the profession.

The findings also suggest that 2-3 years post qualification is a crucial point, as people move out of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE year). There is merit in exploring how to better support the transition out of ASYE into experienced practitioner roles to support retention and develop resilience.

The majority of social workers who took part in the survey worked more than their contracted hours and the qualitative research revealed that social workers often expected to do so in order to fulfil their roles. Flexible working arrangements were welcomed to manage this issue, such as being able to work from home or while travelling, enabled by good IT. However, in the qualitative interviews, part-time work was perceived as a barrier to progression.

Around half of the social workers who took part in the survey felt stressed by their job. Often bureaucratic procedures and paperwork were seen as getting in the way of their time with children and families, and there is a need to explore ways to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.

The qualitative interviews identified that the major source of support for social workers was their relationship with their colleagues/ team, and both stayers and leavers talked about how critical this was for keeping them in social work practice. It is evident that organisational culture has a role to play in encouraging healthy working practices and increasing employee confidence in accessing the available support.

Improving public perception and raising the profile of and respect for the profession more widely, could help to attract more applicants.

See our infographic for a snapshot of summary findings.

Longitudinal Social Workers_DfE_Year 1 Infographic

Read the full report  for detailed insights on everything from the make-up of the workforce through to some of the reasons shared for leaving the profession.

Watch this space for future publications of the next waves of research findings.


Making time to make a difference

Being busy has become the norm for so many of us, both in work and at home. Workloads increase, deadlines loom, and it’s easy to let the less “pressing” tasks or activities fall by the wayside. Like most people, we’re guilty of this from time to time, and need to plan accordingly to fit in the “non-urgent” stuff, around reports, projects and proposals.

Something we’re committed to at IFF is providing a positive work culture, where our team are engaged and are given opportunities to develop, both professionally and personally. This summer we found a great opportunity to help us achieve that, and which felt like a great fit, linking to our values of being human first and making a difference.

“At the end of the Future Frontiers project, all the young people were enthusiastic and excited about their future careers and it was great to be a part of that.”

Teaming up with charity Future Frontiers, who support disadvantaged young people, 20 IFF-ers from around the business took part in a career mentoring programme for a group of 15-year olds from Kemnal Technology College near Bromley. Running over 4 weeks, the programme offered our team the opportunity to listen to and work with young people during a pivotal time in their academic and future working careers.

Taking time away from our day jobs took a bit of juggling, but Future Frontiers provided loads of support to ensure we were supported throughout and felt comfortable in the programme.Future Frontiers and IFF working together

IFF Associate Director Gill Stewart remarked “I felt prepared for every session, thanks to the resources available – the handbook, the coaching portal and the videos…. It was a lovely thing to be involved in.

Reflecting on her participation in the programme, Mirella Scott, Qualitative Research Manager said:  “I remember what it was like when I was that age, with all the choices laid out before you. When I was at school, making these decisions for myself, and the advice that helped me along the way. The  opportunity to volunteer shows that IFF is interested in helping people with their career and having a positive influence in their lives.

It does make you think about other important things in life and reflect on your own journey through school and starting out in your career. And thinking back – what advice would you give to your 15-year old self?

Other staff agreed that “making time” to break away from the routine of work was really valuable and   found that working with young people was refreshing and energising. The success of the programme was in no small part related to the support that Future Frontiers provided: the use of electronic tablets, links to resources – and even the graduation party; with support from our People team.

Graduation ceremony with Future Frontiers

Reflecting on the opportunity one volunteer said: “Everyone takes ownership and personal responsibility of their work at IFF, so being able to step away from the intensity of your work and take time to do something like this was brilliant. From the start through to graduation, seeing the student preparing to work toward a goal that you’ve influenced, and to work with a young person individually was very rewarding”.

Looking back, the programme was a great opportunity for personal and professional development, and something we’d highly recommend. A wholly positive experience for our team (and we hope for the young people too), it’s been great a great reminder of the value of making time to invest in our People. As well as reiterating how lucky we are to have a great team around us, and give us the opportunity to make a difference.


Entrepreneurs with disabilities need more support – Findings of an IFF Research report, commissioned by the DWP

Disabled entrepreneurs may have greater support needs, found an IFF Research report published this week. The research commissioned by The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was designed to enhance their understanding of the experience of self-employment for disabled people.

This study was prompted following the observation of rising levels of self-employment within the UK labour market. Between 2001 and 2017, the number of self-employed increased from 3.3 million to 4.8 million people. Moreover, currently in the UK only about half of those with a disability or long-term health condition are in employment, compared to four-fifths of the non-disabled population. This means that around 3.5 million disabled people are potentially missing out on the health and wellbeing benefits that appropriate work can bring. The research was designed to understand to what extent self-employment can be a suitable option for disabled people, considering the potential challenges faced and how these can be alleviated.

Research Design

We conducted forty in-depth interviews and two focus groups as part of this qualitative research, with the following groups:

DWP disabled entrepreneur research

These interviews covered broadly the same topics with each audience:

    • Motivations for entering or seeking self-employment;
    • Challenges of entering, maintaining and growing self-employment;
    • Support received over the course of self-employment; and
    • Ideal type of support that would have been useful over the course of self-employment.

Research Findings

In general, the challenges faced by disabled self-employed people are similar to those faced by all self-employed people, however challenges are compounded and complicated by health conditions which can fluctuate or worsen. Disabled people can also lack confidence and rarely have access to roles models who are disabled and self-employed. In addition, representatives of organisations providing self-employment support generally lack a knowledge, or lived experience, of disability.

As part of the research we also asked disabled self-employed people to tell us about their employment history. This uncovered that many had left traditional employment because it had become unsuitable for them; while some employers had tried to be flexible, others were not able to accommodate their needs. In other cases, doing the job itself was no longer possible regardless of employers’ efforts.

The DWP and The Department of Health have made a commitment to remove the barriers that stop people with a disability or health condition from getting into work, with an aim to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027. This includes a commitment to provide people with the best opportunities so that they can succeed in self-employment. These findings of this study have implications therefore for future support provision considering the specifics the needs of disabled people.

The full report can be viewed here. Or for more information on the research or findings contact:

Lorna Adams, Director,

Gill Stewart, Associate Director,