March 2021: The best health check so far

As we all face our own challenges of the new year, Senior Workforce Advisor Suzanne Hudson reports on the importance of the Social Work Health check, which is all about understanding the challenges facing social workers, particularly in these difficult times.


The new year is typically a time of resolutions, fitness goals and health kicks. However, as 2021 began and a third national lockdown was announced, the context this time round was rather more challenging than usual. Personally, it’s taken all my will power to walk daily out in the cold, and to stay away from the kitchen snacks which call me regularly! It feels harder somehow, to meet those challenges when we’re back into lockdown and missing our friends and family. However, my challenges are miniscule compared to those faced everyday by social workers, our unsung workforce, who have had the most challenging time trying to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our most vulnerable residents, and who are working to support our communities throughout the pandemic.

 cover Health Check Survey National Report 2020/21

That’s why this year’s Social Work Health check has been so timely, and so important - to help make sure that the wellbeing and needs of social workers are also looked after. To ensure that they too, are supported. Lockdown has created a desire for not only personal improvement (I’m still not opening the snack drawer) but for organisational improvement too, as working conditions and the wellbeing of staff become more and more paramount. That’s where the National Social work Health check 2020/2021 comes in, and I may be biased but I believe it’s the best health check any employer could have!

The health check is a great way for organisations to listen to their social workers, to hear what support they need in order to face their everyday challenges at work. The Standards for employers of social workers form the eight pillars of the Social Work Health check and are relevant to all employers who have social workers as part of their workforce. They relate to all registered social workers employed within an organisation, including managers and social work students. They are relevant in all settings and however social workers are employed. It is a key element of the refreshed Standards for Employers of social workers.

More information on how these standards apply to health and care organisations is available from Health Education England.

The new health check survey was created by social workers for social workers to help support and deliver effective social work. We know that carrying out an annual health check means that issues and trends can be identified and addressed effectively. It allows social workers to feel that they are listened to and ensures the employer is pro-active in tackling the issues that affect their front-line staff, especially during these difficult times.

Having built on our previous experience, this year the survey was designed to be simpler for Principal Social Workers (PSWs) to implement in their localities. It also included COVID-19 specific questions to assess the wellbeing of social workers.

  • Each PSW was sent a link to an online survey and a unique code relating to their organisation. 
  • PSWs were also be provided with a separate link (to a slightly shorter survey) which they could forward onto the social workers in their organisation along with the same unique code.

In total, 133 councils and 10 non-council organisations took part and have all received bespoke results for their organisation to measure social work wellbeing. I definitely call that a positive start to the year. (Even if my commitment to avoid the snack drawer hasn’t been quite so positive…)  I’m really grateful to everyone who has taken part and helped make this a success.

The next round of the survey is due to start in September 2021, if your organisation is interested in taking part please do register your interest early via your PSW at workforce@local.gov.uk

Let’s make the next health check even better.