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Social Workers Union launches ‘Operation Speak Out’

BASW’s trade union arm the Social Workers Union is dealing with increasing calls from members as escalating workplace challenges impact on working conditions, prompting the Association to launch a new initiative, Operation Speak Out, aimed at highlighting examples of inadequate employer support.

BASW’s AGM heard how Operation Speak Out would ensure specific difficulties faced by individual or groups of social workers are now being disseminated throughout the organisation and used in lobbying work with local authorities, employer representatives and central government. Where efforts to address problems directly with employers prove unsuccessful, BASW/SWU will use the new model to ensure examples of poor employer support are brought to public attention, through its own channels and the wider media.

BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson said: “In launching Operation Speak Out we will ensure we make the very best of the all the resources we have at our disposal. The Social Workers Union will work alongside our policy and communications team to gather evidence, highlight issues both locally and nationally, and work hard to bring solutions and lobby for wider political change.”

Focusing on the role of SWU since its launch on 1 September 2011, Mr Dawson added: “Caseloads are on the increase for us, with calls up 20% – a reflection on the problems playing out throughout the profession. At heart, the union deals with professional issues and we are dedicated to helping good, honest, professional social workers in being able to do good, honest, professional work.”

SWU, which now contains over 4,000 members, represents social workers on both an individual and collective level, as well as acting as a conciliatory voice in a climate of increased cuts, restructuring and degradation of terms and conditions.

Senior SWU officer, Dave Allen, also addressed the event, telling delegates: “The union is playing a vital role at a time when there is an increase in bullying, intimidation and workplace stress. It is not uncommon to see capable, articulate and durable staff reduced to tears by the climate in which they are forced to operate.

We also hear from managers who themselves are concerned about the demands being placed on their staff – the issues are anything but simple.”