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Social work funding constraints toughest for a whole generation

Funding for social work is worse today than it has been at any time in the last three decades. That’s the view of Nick Lovell, a BASW Council member and a social worker with 27 years experience in the field, who says that amidst the pressure of working in the face of such deep cuts social workers need to remind themselves of why they do their job and the difference they make to people’s lives.

“In my 27 years of being a social worker resources have always being tight. But in my experience this is the worst it has ever been,” he said.

“Social workers are having to be even better at what they do. At the moment, a lot of local authorities are only advertising in-house because they haven’t got the money to take on new people, so they are making do with what they have got.

“We went through a hey-day with money available for preventative services. Now we are seeing an erosion of that with the focus on frontline fire-fighting.

“Preventative work is still high on the government’s agenda but authorities are struggling to find the money to push this agenda.”

BASW’s State of Social Work survey earlier this year backed up Mr Lovell’s concern, with social workers painting a picture of cuts to services, unfilled vacancies and increased pressure on workloads.

Against this backdrop Mr Lovell said it is easy for practioners to feel lost and marginalised. However, he added: “The art of being a good social worker is being able to juggle these things. Keep asking yourself when you go to work each morning why am I doing this job?

“The answer is I am doing it to make a difference to people’s lives.”

Mr Lovell, who works as an early intervention team manager in Newport, Gwent, described social workers as society’s “unsung heroes” who have to put up with a lot of negative press coverage of their profession. He said the profession needed to be better at sticking up for itself and showing its worth to the world.

“For too long social workers have been downtrodden. Speaking as a social worker myself we have allowed that to happen. The only time social workers hit the headlines is when tragedies occur. But people make bad decisions in all professions. It just doesn’t get the media coverage social work gets.

“We do a difficult, challenging job but we do a good job. It is a job where you have to be dedicated and committed.

“We are committed to helping people change their lives and make positive differences in their lives.”