The statement contends that recent Government policy announcements can be seen as an attempt to privatise social work as part of a wider process of welfare transformation.
The statement condemns the impact of welfare transformation and austerity on the lives of some of the most vulnerable communities in Britain – noting the link between austerity and growing child poverty and increased levels of mental ill health.
The agreed statement
- Social work has a legacy as a valued profession that is worth preserving and promoting in contemporary society. It is an ‘ethical profession’ shaped by its value base and the complex decision making that comes with balancing the care and protection of citizens in our society. Good social work, that is adequately funded and supported, can make a real difference to vulnerable people at their time of need. It is a transformative profession that supports people to make changes in their lives that meet their needs and realise their aspirations.
- We are concerned that a raft of recent political initiatives is set to significantly undermine social work education and training and the profession more generally. The announced closure of the College of Social Work and the manner of this can be interpreted as an example of Government’s indifference to the profession. The move to invest significant public funds in training programmes like Frontline and Think Ahead (which have the potential to dilute HEIs’ contribution to social work education) threaten the internationally recognised theory and social science knowledge base that is the bedrock of social work. Whilst we recognise the importance of social work skills for a contemporary workforce we should take care not to focus on the acquisition of such skills at the expense of an understanding of people’s situations and their problems which informs a profession that seeks to promote social justice, stimulate social action and protect the most vulnerable.
- We consider that social work as a profession is even more necessary in times of austerity. Government cuts and welfare transformation threaten some of the most vulnerable communities in the UK. Austerity and welfare transformation are leading to greater child poverty – with the steepest rise in child poverty coming from families where parents are in work (despite the Government myth that poverty is the result of benefit dependency). We note that there is growing evidence to show a link between austerity and growing mental health problems. Social work as a helping profession works alongside some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in society. There is an intimate link between how the vulnerable are treated and how social work is perceived. Social workers and services users are stronger when they stand together; it is the job of social work to protect and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable.
- We see a link between the attempt to transform social work employment and education, and the weakening of the position of some of the most vulnerable in society – it appears to be a part of the transformative project to privatise large swathes of the welfare state. The Government’s intention to sign the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will further exacerbate these problems. As social work organisations we firmly believe that the state has a responsibility for the protection of vulnerable people.
- We intend to develop a Charter for Social Work and we also welcome the summit of social work organisations that has been called to consider how we might strengthen our alliances and partnerships to promote the best interests of the profession and of those who need and use social work services. This will be followed by a one day conference to bring social workers, social work students and service users together to broaden and deepen our alliance, encouraging the development of actions and grass roots responses. We offer our support to all social workers, service users and students who are promoting and supporting necessary social work services and resisting welfare transformation and cuts.
Note to Editors
This statement was developed by representatives of the main social work organisations in the UK including the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), the Social Work Action Network (SWAN), Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee (JUCSWEC), the Association of Professors of Social Work (APSW) and the relevant representative trade unions, UNISON, the University and College Union (UCU) and the Social Workers Union (SWU).
For more information, contact Michael Lavalette, Social Work Action Network email@example.com or The British Association of Social Workers on 0121 622 3911
A plea for social work to be recognised
Per Ardua Ad Alta – through hard work to great heights! Graduating as a social worker is just the beginning of a journey. When I graduated following the completion of my social work degree I remember my tutor saying to me “Your greatest achievements are yet to come and it’s important that you put into practice what you have learnt here”. Recently, when I graduated from The University of Birmingham the Vice-Chancellor and Principal gave a passionate speech and he said: ‘You will carry the richness of your experience at this university with you into an exciting and challenging future’. I have learnt many things as a student and as a social worker. That learning has led me here today to ensure that I continue to raise the platform of the social work profession.
Social work is at its best when social workers are encouraged to think broadly and reflect on their practice. There is a current debate about the social work profession being divided between adult and children social work. I am against the idea because as social workers we do not just assess one person, we look at the situation holistically. The government must allow social workers more opportunities to share their practice experience and this is not happening. There is too much emphasis being placed upon what social workers should be doing, and rather we should be focusing our attention on positive outcomes. Excellent practice means putting the service user first and giving them the opportunity to share their stories.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron was recently in my neck of the woods in Birmingham doing what he does best, talking. Of course, I wanted to be present however with a packed diary and a tight schedule, as a front line social worker, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with all the demands put on us! However, I am sure that there will be ample opportunity for us to meet and discuss the future generation of social workers in the near future. I have no doubt when I do meet with Mr Cameron, my honourable friend will get use to my straight talking and take on board some of my comments as a social worker. In the midst of many distractions and with all the talk of saving money I was surprised, as many were, that MPs were given an 11% pay rise. I have no doubt this pay rise was well deserved as is the pay rise for the hard working social workers who only received a 1% in comparison. It is important that social workers continue to be involved in the future discussions about social work. I am sure that the Prime Minister would appreciate my comments – after all he will agree enthusiasm should never be quelled!
Moving forward it is vital that we continue to hold debates about the role of social workers and it is important for any change to better rather than to divide a profession. More discussion with the right people from the correct backgrounds is imperative. Intellectual curiosity with practical application must continue to play a vital role in nurturing the next generation of social workers, to ensure that they can stand up to those very people in power who seek to diminish our roles!
Note: Imran, the author, has made the decision to leave the social work profession and explore other avenues.
Hosted by Eileen Darlington of the Swan Scotland group, around 50 people heard speeches from the chair of Unison’s Scotland Social Work Issue’s group; a Unison steward within the Social Work Homeless Team and Swan’s very own Vasilios Ioakimidis.
We are grateful to have received £135 in a collection for Swan Greece, hoping to assist them in their continued campaigning activities.
You can find a video of the meeting at the following web address. Simply copy and paste into your browser, watch and share!
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
It has been announced that the benefit cap will be lowered to £20,000 outside London. This cap includes housing benefit. In one of the areas where I work, the local housing allowance (i.e. the amount provided if you receive full housing benefit) is £807/month for a two-bedroom property. This would mean that a benefit-reliant family living in a two bed property (i.e. a small family) would be spending nearly half their income on rent. I am particularly worried for a family I work with, which is made up of 2 parents with learning disabilities and five children. Covering even just the basic living costs after their rent payments will be impossible. If they have to move away to a cheaper area, it would mean moving away from all the support systems (both family and statutory) that enable them to safely parent their children. The proposals to stop child benefit for the 3rd+ child will further squeeze large families.
I am also thinking of another family in which domestic violence is our main concern. The mother has been very clear in her wish to leave the relationship, but the practical barriers to affording and managing two children as a lone parent, one who works a minimum wage, zero-hour contract job, has left her feeling paralysed and overwhelmed.
Eliminating housing benefit for those under 21 would have a devastating impact on young people who can’t safely remain at home. My heart breaks thinking of transgender friends who, for their own safety, had to leave home but who struggled massively to find safe and affordable housing. Cutting their access to housing benefit would increase their likelihood of being homeless and suffering further violence.
On a personal note, it looks like I’ll be facing four years of pay increases capped at 1%. My rent has increased at least 4.5% every year for the past four years. With tuition fees where they are and the student maintenance grant converted into a loan, a student looking to become a social worker could be facing £50,000+ in student loans upon graduation. This is a bloody difficult job and when it feels like we’re slipping further and further away from the middle class ourselves, social work recruitment problems will become even more severe.
Academics and educators from many disciplines offered their support to SWAN at the end of the executive and the mood was best expressed by those who said Social Work and SWAN are clearly at the heart of the current fight for academic freedom and progressive politics, and wished this to be passed to the Social Work Action Network.
The University & College Union :
1. Condemns the proposals to imprison Social Workers working in child protection for wilful neglect on criteria as vague as “showing a lack of imagination” and says these proposals have no place in a democratic modern state and will massively damage services to vulnerable children.
2. Calls for the normal academic freedom to debate and design curricula within a profession to be respected and condemns suggestions in recent Government reports that funding should be cut to courses which include Marxist or other critical theory approaches to understanding the social problems graduates will have to deal with.
3. Rejects the neoconservative & elitist approach offered by the Frontline program based at the University of Bedfordshire and calls on social work academics to consider if the values of this program are compatible with their involvement with it as educators, examiners or in any visiting capacity.
4. Calls for the standards required to qualify graduates in Social Work to remain with the accepted associations of social work educators and not be moved to a neoconservative group of private companies and deplores the related closure of the independent College of Social Work .
5. The Higher Education Committee associates itself with the invaluable work undertaken by the progressive Social Work Action Network in rejecting governmental political interference in Social Work education and calling for a progressive and social justice based approach to the invaluable work Social Workers undertake in society
On July 22nd, Swan Scotland is holding a public meeting in order to discuss how Swan can further demonstrate our solidarity with Greece. All are welcome at 7pm, 84 Bells Street, Glasgow. Please find attached a poster that can be displayed in order to advertise the event.
On July 22nd, Swan Scotland is holding a public meeting, in order to discuss how Swan goes about demonstrating our solidarity with Greece.
The meeting will be at 7pm at 84 Bells Street, Glasgow. Please find attached fliers that can be printed and given to anyone who may be interested. Thank you.
With the closure of TCSW creating a debate about the nature of leadership within the social work profession, here Imran shares thoughts and reflections. If you are a practitioner with reflections from the field, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘When the college bell finally rings and the gates close it will be difficult to say goodbye! I shall not weep and look back rather salute those who fought for excellent practice! Despite the major challenges and obstacles that the college encountered in its path it cannot be said that they did not leave a mark! As one great friend remarked it is not the mechanics rather the engineering that deserves credit. Life no doubt will continue after college, there is no doubt about that!
Sometimes in our moments of disappear and destruction can come great inspiration from things around us. I recall the story of Isaac Newton who discovered the principle of universal gravitation by observing the fall of an apple from a tree. There is a danger, with less becoming lesser and with expectations running on a high, that the social worker is forgotten.
If I were to be asked what I have learnt in my short time as a social worker it would be to never give up rather to always be optimistic. I would encourage social workers to strive forward with hope and to always speak the truth. There is often too much noise and rather less doing going on. Everyone seems to think they know best for what social workers need, rather than incorporating those very people in debate in how to move forward.
Historically, social work has never been allowed to stand up and be counted. It has always taken a group of people to step forward to unite us and to present a strong voice for the vulnerable. The message continues to be the same and has not changed, yet something seems to be lost in translation.
The Magna Carta has given hope to many who face oppression and social work has given a voice to those who yearn for the redress of wrongs.
If social work is ever to be a profession one can be proud of, it’s going to take a united front from all to come together. No longer can it be the case of not working together, rather we must bridge our differences and quickly, to save a profession in despair.
Sometimes a few words can carry a powerful message. So I end with a positive note:
Lets shake hands and start over!’
The main speaker will be leading member of Swan Greece Vasilios Ioakimides, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Durham University, and editor of the Journal of International Social Work. Other speakers will include representatives of anti-austerity campaigns, including the Glasgow Homeless Case Workers strikers.
OXI! Challenging austerity, defending welfare: building solidarity with the Greek People.
Wednesday July 22nd, 7pm.
Glasgow Unison Offices
84 Bell Street
Check out the Swan Scotland facebook page, and spread the word!
On July 8th, as Osborne announces further deep cuts to our welfare state, Barnet and Bromley workers are truly living up to the call for a Day of Action. As their council services face drastic privatisation, including social services, they are asking for our help and solidarity.
The following link explains how we can all support these brave workers:
The Barnet anti-privatisation campaign has long been supported by Swan, and we stand in complete solidarity with them as they try to protect their local services.
We are encouraging as many SWAN supporters as possible to engage with the demonstrations already organised for Budget Day, by turning up with Swan banners or placards and joining in solidarity.
Please find here the link to the People’s Assembly events page:
A full list of events is available, across the UK. We will be keen to see your photos and placard slogans! In Solidarity!