BASW Chair Gerry Nosowska joins BASW CEO Ruth Allen for our latest vlog update.  The full transcript is below:

Ruth: Hello and welcome to my vlog – I am Ruth Allen CEO of BASW and we have different formal from this week. I am going to be doing these as a duet and this week I am delighted to be joined today by Gerry Nosowska, BASW Chair,

Gerry: Hello! Its great to be here.

Ruth: I want to start with a round up of some of the things that have been happening.  Its been another busy week for BASW and I know it’s been very busy for many of you and as always our focus remains on providing social workers in practice and in every other role with support, information, advice and guidance, and to make sure we all feel we are part of one profession particularly at this time when many of us can’t physically see and be with our colleagues or indeed family and friends.  And also to make sure that you feel that we are representing you and your voice really strongly in government and the public sphere.

This week we held our Talking Together webinar for members which was a really lovely and informative celebration of social work and BASW past, present and future part of our 50th Heritage Year celebrations.  Do take a look at that on the website, that is available to download and is really informative and lovely.

I also want to draw your attention to something that Is upcoming which is in place of our sadly cancelled 2 day conference in June, we have the BASW 50th Anniversary Virtual Festival on 22nd and 23rd June – a birthday celebration over four stages or sessions, 2 on each day of an hour each covering a variety of topics and approaches, poetry, arts, music, policy, practice with lots of contributors. Do please be involved and join this and come along. It will be fundraiser for the Social Workers Benevolent Trust and an anti-poverty charity and its open to all, not only members, and it will be on the website afterwards, but do please join it live.

We are continuing to send you three bulletins each week which we hope reflects all the work BASW is doing to represent and promote social work and raise the issues we are all concerned about.  And next week you can look forward to PSW magazine arriving on your doorsteps.

You will also see in today’s bulleting there is podcast from NI which deals with issues of mental health and as its mental health awareness week I am going to start by discussing wellbeing and mental health for social workers and more widely with Gerry.

So, Gerry, the theme of mental health awareness week is kindness. Do you have any reflections on what that might mean for social workers’ wellbeing?

Gerry – Kindness is a wonderful word and it has at its roots kinship and is fundamentally about empathy and relating to people so it’s very relevant to social work and it chimes really strongly with our ethics because social workers I don’t think are content with the idea  of something, they want to do something about it and our ethics of human rights and social justice and  are means to that end of kindness, to enable everybody to live well and thrive so that we all experience wellbeing. The danger of course is that kindness can be a bit of a platitude, so I think what I am seeing amongst the social work profession at the moment is practical, proactive kindness that means a lot to people.

Ruth – Yes absolutely. One of things we are hearing from social workers including through the survey is social workers have actually been reaching out a lot more to their colleagues in a more conscious way.  Some people are feeling really isolated and that notion of kindness being linked to kinship and linked to being with people and to active compassion is really interesting because at this time with a lot of social workers working in more isolated ways, they are having different experiences of whether they feel that camaraderie is still going. In many places people have made real efforts and social workers are saying they are having more meetings and conversations using digital platforms than I would have done before. Those are some of the things we are hearing form social workers at the moment.

Gerry – I think there is a really strong message about self-awareness here and kindness to self which is coming through quite strongly this week which fits with what we are hearing from members that people are really tired, this is a tiring, weighty kind of time and making sense of it and getting through it is taking a real toll on people so that peer support and being there for each other is so important. And I think BASW is doing a lot to try and create spaces where people can come together and its good for people to use those opportunities.

Ruth – Yes creating the online talking and support spaces that we have been providing across the whole of the UK have been really valuable we have had really good feedback and I would encourage people to look at that, they are skype discussions for small groups. We are also looking at expanding what we can offer through telephone and online advice as well to build on what advice and representation offer so we are developing that at the moment. We think there is a need to address social worker wellbeing always  - its an enduring issue and something we are very concerned about in the long run, but at different points in the recovery or phases of this pandemic we really need to have resources there for people, don’t we?

Gerry – and this fits really strongly with the work we are progressing much more quickly now around equality, diversity and inclusion. We know how people are faring at the moment is not equal, the impact isn’t equal and people are facing really different kinds of struggles depending on who and where they are, what’s going on for them, in the context and there are lots of structural issues behind that. So we have a commitment within BASW to promote equality, diversity and inclusion and to try and be an org that is there for all social workers and we know we have a way to go with that but one of the concrete steps has been to set up an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory group which Ruth has mentioned in a previous vlog, and they have met now and given their first set of messages to council about making sure there is personalised support and risk assessment for social workers so they can be OK in whatever work setting they are in and we need to be pushing really strongly for that.

Ruth- yes absolutely. We are doing some additional advice through colleagues in advice and representation for black and minority ethnic staff in particular about risk assessment in the workplace and looking at the guidance that is there in other organisations. It’s a huge issue, its very tricky, we have not lived through before such an infection risk that seems to be affecting different members of our workforce and our communities in these different ways so we are looking at guidance for that.  So the equality and diversity group is advisory but it is part of our wider strategy to support inclusion, diversity, the protected characteristics of our membership and how we make sure we are an inclusive organisation.

Gerry: and yes that we are place where every social worker feels its for them, it represents them, that can be part of and they can contribute in whatever way works for them. One of the reasons we started with the advisory group is that we knew we needed to start with the visible leadership at the top and make sure that Council is representative, and we will be talking more about that in the AGM in September.

Ruth – thank you. And its also great that you are here this week because we have just had a Council meeting and it would be great to share some of the highlights and key issues that were raised there.

Gerry – The Council met on Wednesday and we met online. We did our best to get through quite a lot of discussions. The major things we were talking about were firstly the 2025 Vision which will be presented to members at the AGM in September. We have had a lot of contributions form social workers about what that should look like and it’s about setting out what we think a strong social work profession in the UK looks like and what BASW’s mission is around that. And we have three really big areas that we push within BASW that promote social work. It’s about supporting social workers, it about supporting the development and the progression of the social work profession and practice, and its also about supporting the voice and influence of social work within society. We are getting to the point of having a draft Vision to share with people and that is wonderful and will set the direction for the next five years building on all the great work that is already in place.

That led on to discuss the need to learn from our response to Covid 19. There has been lots of changes in BASW and there are things we can build on and progress and other things that we miss, and we need to figure out how we get back to those and what that would look like.

And the other thing that we were talking about was the plan for next year and the phases of that. There is a level of uncertainty. We are really grateful for our string membership and that really allows us to be quite thoughtful about what we can do over the next year and we also need to ensure we can be adaptable and flexible for the needs of social workers as those change and emerge.

And we also had the opportunity in Council to thank staff and members who have contributed so much over the past few months in ways than none of us really expected. We’ve had to step up but its been a really wonderful response for social work and there’s been a lot that we can draw on for the future.

Ruth – yes it was a really effective Council meeting online. Most people were able to be there and contribute. I think its amazing how we can use the technologies to be efficient and get the business done and also to take forward some really important areas of principle such as our Vision and promoting the equalities and diversity work. Those things are not on hold. One thing I wanted to say and it came up in Council, is that although we are really focused on dealing with Covid now we are also reallt trying to keep on top of and trying to promote those longstanding developments and projects that are really, really important for the long term for BASW and for social work.

And I want to finish today by saying that absolutely we are starting the learning the lessons part of Covid. We are only part way through – we don’t know how long it will be, we don’t know how far we are through this, we don’t know all the phases of the pandemic will be. We are just about to issue our guidance for the role of social workers in a pandemic and its aftermath with a focus on Covid 19 and that will be out early next week. That should also help to frame some of our thinking about how we support social work right now but also in those emerging stages of recovery and aftermath – and as it affects the population as a whole, the people we serve as well as on how it impacts on us as a profession.

So, Gerry is there anything else you would like to say?

Gerry – The only other thing to add is the opportunity there is now as people pay attention to social care and social work is for BASW to take a really strong lead on what that needs to look like- conversations that we have been having for some time but have real sense of urgency about them. That is something that Council is really keen for us to focus on particularly prioritising around what adult social care should look like the role of placements in that, what children’s and family support should look like and what mental wellbeing across the population should look like, and the role of social work within public health. So there are some really big conversations that need to happen that we will be very much at the heart of.

Ruth – Thank you Gerry. That is a very good message to finish on so thank you, thank you to all our members. I will be back next week with another buddy. I hope that Gerry will be back some point very soon too so in the meantime take care, stay in touch.