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BASW increases charity funding as social worker debt levels rise

BASW has increased the funding it provides for social workers facing financial difficulty, as evidence grows that more and more hard-up professionals are falling into debt.

More than a third (36%) of the 1,100 respondents to a BASW survey have higher debts than a year ago, and 89% of these social workers are concerned about the levels of debt they are living with – 33%, say they are very concerned.

The situation has seen rising numbers of social workers contacting the charity, the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust (SWBT), and led to a decision by BASW members at the Association’s AGM on 14 June to increase the money it provides to the Trust.

BASW’s State of Social Work survey found rising levels of personal debt, with pay freezes, axed allowances and the introduction of new charges leading to growing financial hardship.

The BASW survey also found:

• Two thirds of social workers say they feel worse off now than a year ago.
• Among this group, three quarters (76%) are forgoing holidays, a third (35%) can’t afford petrol for their cars and a fifth (21%) have even struggle to afford groceries.
• 80% of all respondents to the poll cite pay freezes as the chief cause of financial concerns, 40% refer to reduced or axed car allowances. 16% say they have had actual pay cuts and 18% have seen the introduction of car parking charges.

The Trust also report an increase in applications from social workers who have previously worked for agencies but can no longer find work with them. One applicant to the Trust said: “I have been a social worker for over 25 years and following a period of sickness, I am trying to find work. There are no suitable jobs out there, although I look on a daily basis.”

Another said: “Despite registering with the relevant agencies and organisations, I have been unable to gain employment, having previously been employed for 10 years”.

The Trust is now seeing these type of applications from agency workers on a regular basis, adding to the requests for help from those who are sick, bereaved or on their own as a result of relationship breakdown.

Hilton Dawson, BASW chief executive, commented: “The statistics emphasise the urgent need for local authorities to respond to BASW’s call last month for a moratorium on any new measures that financially disadvantage social workers. Morale among social workers is low as a combination of rising caseloads and axed support staff, problems that are hugely exacerbated by the ever greater degradation of their financial position.

“Social workers are vital professionals who are expected to deal with some of the most socially and economically deprived people in society, yet they have to do so burdened with ever greater concerns about their own financial hardship. Politicians at national and local level must acknowledge that social workers were never the beneficiaries of sizeable pay hikes during the boom years, unlike teachers and doctors for instance, and can ill afford prolonged attacks on their living standards.”