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General Secretary Blog: Insights on the EP Workforce


In 2019, the Department for Education (DfE) published research around the EP workforce which showed that most EPs were then working in local authorities, that they were satisfied working in local authorities, but that there were still too few EPs to recruit to local authorities. This instigated a welcome increase to the funded places available for new EPs to train.

The world has changed dramatically since 2019 and an updated report from the DfE was released at the end of June with much to commend EPs and the work that they do – in both public and private sector roles.

However, the report also sets off significant alarm bells around ongoing recruitment and retention difficulties in local authorities – a situation that we have been well aware of for some time, based on high levels of vacancy adverts and direct reports from members, local representatives and PEPs. 'Currently, in those local authorities experiencing difficulties in recruiting and/or retaining EPs (up to 88% of them) almost all of their PEPs (96%) said that the shortage is ‘[affecting] outcomes for children and young people requiring support’ (DfE, 2023, p. 48)

Prior to the publication of the report, we launched a snap survey of the EP workforce. Based on those responses, we learned that just under half of respondents were working for local authorities exclusively, but of those, 73% are currently considering leaving local authority employment, or reducing their hours, to work privately or on a ‘portfolio’ basis. The common reasons given were stress, pay, work-life balance, flexibility and workload management (AEP, May 2023).

This information is reflected within the DfE report, which states, ‘The most commonly mentioned issue in relation to recruitment of more experienced staff was the relative attractiveness of work in private practice. Private practice was often seen as providing better paid work, an opportunity to work fewer hours, and offering a greater variety of work with less emphasis on statutory work’ (DfE, 2023, p. 38).

Many EPs would prefer to work in a local authority-  but no longer see this as a viable option due to the current cost of living, family commitments or protecting their own wellbeing. 
We know from our members the contribution that EPs in private practice make to our communities. They work with schools, families, community interest groups and social enterprises. They provide training, therapeutic work, person centred planning meetings and complete statutory assessments (in England). The report speaks of how local authorities might use private EPs to ‘complement’ delivery of their work, although I wonder whether this is - a potentially costly - reactive response to the pressures of statutory work, rather than a long term strategic solution.

There are clear messages for local authorities to take away from the DfE research:

  • Pay more;
  • Provide greater flexibility;
  • Ensure a diverse range of work, especially focusing on prevention and early intervention;
  • Make workloads manageable.

    The above improvements require challenging decisions around local authority budgets. They also require a larger pool of EPs to recruit from, highlighting a need for even more training placesSuch investments will save money over the longer term and ensure sustainability.

    They will also ensure - crucially -  that all children and young people who need support from an EP can access one.


"EPs provide a unique and fundamental role in collaborating with other services to meet the needs of children, young people and families. Their ability to adapt and to apply their specialist, expert knowledge and skills in a range of ways and settings was seen by EPs themselves, and those who work with them or use their services, as being key to their impact. EPs were valued for their creative, flexible, inclusive, and solutions-focused approaches to supporting other professionals and children, young people and families. Their ability to give a voice to, and advocate for, other professionals, children and young people, and parents/carers, and to build relationships with them, is at the heart of their work."
DfE 2023, p. 105



Take action.

One tool that we have at our disposal to help persuade local authorities that they need to rethink their approach to the EP workforce is industrial action.
Ballot papers have been sent to members affected by the current pay dispute but beyond voting - all members can take action to save local authority services by writing to their MP and their local councillor. We have a toolkit available to help you support the ballot - from sending a Tweet, to a letter to your local Councillor.

Where ever you work, it is important we preserve the option for EPs to work in local authorities - it is also essential that we ensure these services continue to provide universal access for the children and young people who need them most.

Our children and young people deserve better. #SaveOurServices

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