Strength in unity
Well, that was a fortnight of two weeks, to butcher a footballing cliche. Two weeks ago we had a positive and forward-looking AGM and conference, with brilliant contributions from our speakers and excellent discussions on our proposed ‘2020 Vision’. Then last week ended with an election that many (I imagine most) social workers and users of social work services can only view as having negative and backward-looking consequences. I was out of the country at the end of last week – having posted my vote for an anti-austerity, pro-public services candidate in my constituency – and, given the time difference, went to bed on Thursday night before the exit polls delivered their unexpected predictions. So what a shock it was to wake up to the news on Friday morning.
I had said in my closing speech at the AGM the week before that we were inevitably facing more austerity, as all the major political parties were committed to it. I wasn’t expecting the austerity max that will be our lot now given a majority Conservative government. All the more reason then for social workers to come together, to challenge austerity and all the pain and misery that comes with it. Paul Krugman, the Nobel-prize winning economist, made it absolutely clear in an article in the Guardian, published on the day of our AGM, that austerity policies were unnecessary and uncalled for. He voiced his astonishment that the Labour Party had not provided any real opposition to austerity.
So this is what we as social workers now need to do, and what BASW needs to take a lead in doing. We have a mandate from our members to develop a strong, independent voice for social work and social workers, and to use this voice to speak up with and for our service users. The election result of last week means that we have an absolute duty to develop, strengthen and use our voice, right now, to challenge austerity and to point to the inevitable damage it will cause to our nation’s mental health, to our vulnerable children, to disabled people, to people who are sick, poor or unemployed, to people who are homeless.
We will do this, and we will do so in collaboration and partnership with anyone who shares our concern for social justice. We need to become stronger and to this end we need more members. Andy McNicoll of Community Care wrote a powerful article last Friday, highlighting the need for social workers to speak now with a collective voice, and calling on social workers to join their professional body. I wouldn’t usually use a blog post as a recruitment advert, but this is so important and Andy is right.Join BASW and strengthen our independent voice, so that it will be heard louder and louder by those who need to hear it.
One last thing - congratulations to Cat Smith, BASW’s Parliamentary Officer and now Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood!