Now, it’s absolutely no secret that agencies – such as ours – advocate for temporary assignments and seek to promote the many advantages of working as a locum.   What’s not as commonly known, however, is that many Social Work agencies also recruit for a vast array of permanent roles.   So, whether you’re new to qualified work or have twenty years’ experience, it’s time we shine some light on the world of perm and what it has to offer.

Let’s first address the most distinguishable difference between perm and locum: the money.   There would be no point in trying to write a balanced argument and ignoring the obvious – that agency Social Workers – more often than not – take home more money.   With the cost-of-living skyrocketing, the post-pandemic state of the economy and the anxiety all this induces, going locum should be a no brainer, shouldn’t it?   Well, maybe not. So, let’s get to it: why would a Social Worker opt for permanent instead?


Being a permanent member of a Service offers stability for you AND for the service users.   This is no small feat as Social Work can be stressful and high-pressure at the best of times, without the added tension of the end of a contract nearing.   If you are working with a good Consultant, these anxieties should be eased and your next contract can be lined up for when you are ready, but of course there are no guarantees.   Public Health England published a report linking job security to improved health and wellbeing across people’s lives.   It explores the importance having a sense of security and the impact on the individual and their families.

There is something to be said for familiarity in the workplace too: getting to know the people you are working alongside, knowing the area you have cases in, developing trust and a bond with your seniors and marking your mark in a team you have grown to be part of.

Being in permanent employment also invites the opportunity to go on a journey with your Service.   Playing a part in the progression of the Local Authority can also provide fulfilment and a sense of community.   Teamwork makes the dream work, they say!


Not everyone in this field has ambitions to be a part of a senior management team, but regardless of your aspirations for the future, training and development is crucial to harnessing your skills in Social Work.   Permanent employment offers you something agency work cannot, which is access to funded training and support with your progression.   Whether you are seeking to complete your ASYE, or looking to go from Team Manager to Service Manager, Local Authorities want to invest in their permanent staff and provide guidance, support and opportunities for your further progression.


They are pros and cons for both perm and locum, so to decide which is best for you is really to decide what’s most important to you and what works best with your circumstances.   Locum work offers more flexibility (you can work for 6 months and then take a month off if you like!), you can travel for work and experience different parts of the country.   Whereas perm requires you to request annual leave when you want a break.   Locums however pay for their own holiday, whereas permanent staff have a generous annual leave allowance, sick pay, and pension contributions.   Maternity/paternity pay is another thing to consider, which may or may not be a consideration depending again on your personal circumstances.


As touched on earlier, permanent Social Workers provide continuity for the service users they work alongside.   To choose a career in Social Work is to choose to help the people and families who need it most.   It’s selfless, dutiful, challenging and rewarding work and certainly isn’t for everybody.   It takes a special kind of person to be a Social Worker and to build the kind of relationships which strive to improve the lives of others.   But relationships and trust take time, and through no fault of the agency social worker, this time cannot always be afforded to you on a shorter-term contract.


If you are unhappy with your working conditions and you want to leave, another notable difference between the two types of employment would be the notice period.   Agency workers are often able to leave with just one weeks’ notice, whereas permanent contracts can dictate a notice period of 1 or 2 months’ (sometimes 3!).   If you’ve only ever worked in one Local Authority, the thought of changing roles can feel especially daunting.   But I implore permanent Social Workers to recognise that being unhappy at work is not part of the job, even if you’re used to it, and just because you have been somewhere a long time and you have a lengthy notice period, does not mean you haven’t got plentiful options.

Whichever route you decide to take when it comes to your employment, always remember that it is precisely that: your employment and your choice, to best fit your life and your preferences.   At Social Work Partners we want to help match you to opportunities to suit you, whatever it is you’re looking for.   Please reach out if you wish to discuss the temporary or permanent roles we have (or both!), we love connecting with people and building relationships, too!   There’s never an obligation to change roles but exploring your options and hearing what’s available can be both helpful and exciting – especially if you’ve been toying with the idea of a change.

Lauren Bishop (Head of Perm – Social Work Partners)