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Insights into Social Services


As part of our ‘Surviving the System’ community event in Edinburgh, there was a theme coming through in a number of conversations that some people weren’t very familiar with the make-up of social services and the role of public, private and third sector organisations in delivering social services.

One of the themes from the event was learning from each other, understanding each others’ situations, systems, challenges and pressures.  In the spirit of this theme, one of our project lift collaborative team, Jess Alexander, offered to share some insights for anyone interested in delving a little deeper.

So here are some stats about the social services sector and a link to some resources.

The SSSC publishes a workforce data report each year and the 2018 one was published in December 2019.  Scottish Social Service Sector: Report on 2018 Workforce Data (which is an Official Statistics Publication for Scotland) gives a summary and some details of the make-up of the social services workforce in Scotland.  Some highlights are that:

  • The size of the workforce has increased to 204,610, a rise of 1.2% since 2017. This is the highest level recorded since these reports began. The social service workforce makes up approximately 7.7% of all Scottish employment.
  • Of the 204,610 workers in social services, 10647 are social workers (5%)
  • More than four-fifths of the workforce is employed in direct care roles
  • 33% of workers are employed in the public sector, 40% in the private sector, and 28% in the voluntary sector (this is broken down by local authority area in table 5)
  • The largest employer type differs between local authority areas, with services in the three island authorities provided mainly by the public sector. However, in most areas the private sector is the largest employer.
  • The three largest sub-sectors are housing support/care at home, care homes for adults and day care of children; together these account for almost 78% of the workforce
  • The percentage of men working in the sector is 15%, although it is around double or greater that proportion in criminal justice and residential children’s services
  • Ethnicity and disability data is difficult to interpret due to high levels of non response but we can say that at least 3% of the workforce is from an ethnic minority and at least 2% has a disability
  • The workforce is mainly employed on permanent contracts (82%)
  • 51% of the workforce work full time (more than 30 hours per week)

Jess is a Learning and Development Manager with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and together with Susan Nevill and Phillip Gillespie collaborate with the project lift team to open up opportunities, connections and shared understanding into the social services and voluntary sector areas of the system.

Thanks to Jess for the share!