Social Work students will see maintenance grants abolished in 2016 and replaced by additional loans of up to £8,200 per year. When added to the £9,000 per year student fees, a student Social Worker could leave University with direct education related debts of over £55,600.
Working in the public sector they will then see future salary increases capped at 1% per year regardless of inflation, added to a Social Work pay drop of an average of 2.7% between 2012 and 2014 in England. At the same time workloads increase as social worker jobs are cut. In 2014 Local authority adult social services departments saw a drop of 5% of posts from 2013 alone. Early intervention with children and families have seen funds fall by 55% in the past five years; and referrals for safeguarding issues increased hugely, with more than a 50% rise in the number of serious case reviews conducted into the death or serious harm of a child in 2013-14.
Only the ideologues of the right can fail to see the huge increase in Social Work cases as anything other than linked to the increase in poverty and inequality promoted by Government policies.
At a time like this, it is vital to recruit and retain Social Work students who reflect the diverse makeup of modern Britain and who can bring their rich life experience and commitment to bear on these problems.
The policies outlined in this budget, together with massive and disproportionate support for right wing ideologically driven Social Work programs like “The Frontline”, will attempt to drive away potential students whose backgrounds and history make them precisely the sort of worker who can give life to the next generation of Social Work.
SWAN condemns this further attempt at the exclusion of potential students from non privileged backgrounds to Social Work and other higher education courses and reaffirms its belief that the truly “best” of the next generation of Social Workers will build their careers not on an false elitist “officer class” identity, but on the commitment to work with and serve the interests of social work service users from a position of equality and Social Justice.
Dr Terry Murphy