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