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England report - March 2013

In spite of the snow in January and February, it has been a good and productive start to the year for BASW England staff and members. England professional officer Nushra Mansuri attended a meeting of the Refugee Children’s Consortium to consider some of the latest issues currently affecting children and young people subject to immigration controls. This was quickly followed by the launch in Parliament of the Inquiry into Asylum Support for Children and Young People on 30 January led by Sarah Teather MP which produced some sobering evidence of the effects of current policy on children, young people and families including destitution. The findings of the report are truly shocking and we urge all BASW members to support the Children’s Society’s to End Forced Destitution campaign.

The Criminal Justice Reference Group met in Birmingham and was very pleased to welcome four new members to the group. Simultaneously, the reference group was sad to say goodbye to one of its longstanding members Peter Fellowes who has been a BASW member since its inception and given excellent support to the group over the years in terms of his expertise and knowledge. Peter, you will be missed!  The Criminal Justice Reference Group was instrumental in securing a meeting with Louise Casey to discuss the troubled families agenda with her. The meeting was attended by Iain Brown (member of reference group), Joan Franklyn (Chair of England) and Nushra Mansuri. It was a useful meeting which hopefully helped to debunk some of the myths about social workers and also build on the strengths of the profession. Louise Casey has agreed to give an interview to PSW so watch this space.

Nushra attended a meeting of the Inter-Disciplinary Alliance for Children in February and together with other colleagues took a sharp intake of breath as we considered the vast amount of policy that is under discussion including the Children’s Bill, the Macur Review, an Ofsted consultation on Cafcass, a Family Justice Board consultation on good practice that can be expected of Cafcass, local authorities, the Legal Aid Agency and HM Courts & Tribunals Service in family proceedings involving children. This was mirrored through Sue Kent’s involvement with the Alliance of Children in Care & Care Leavers who are also scrutinising the huge amount of disjointed policy affecting this group of service users. The Children’s and Families Reference Group will be meeting soon to discuss the Bill but we do invite all BASW members with views on some of the aforementioned to also get in touch.

At the All Parliamentary Group Inquiry into social work it was the turn of social work with adults to get a hearing. A big thank you to BASW members who bravely raised their experiences with MPs. The issues of the difficulties of hospital discharges because of pressure on social service budgets and insufficient social work time were highlighted, as well as the consequences of people being discharged without a social work assessment and services when clearly there were needs resulting in unnecessary returns to hospital. The problems of people with moderate care needs not receiving support were also explored. The impact of current and pending welfare benefit cuts – yes let’s still call them that – were highlighted, with particular concern about the impact on vulnerable people, both financially and in terms of people’s physical and mental health. Social workers were asked about caseloads and whether there were sufficient staff to deal with them. It was stated that in many parts of the country there had been a reduction in social worker numbers and at the same time increased caseloads.

BASW held a meeting with The College of Social Work and MENCAP to discuss the development of advice and guidance for social workers working with people with a learning disability and a mental health problem and autism. A scoping document has been sent to the Department of Health for comment. The next stage is to consult with our members about the content.

The Francis Report into events at the Mid Staffordshire Hospital between 2005 and 2009 prompted some reflection. The spotlight was on NHS staff rather than social services, but some of the issues of people being so caught up with targets that they lose sight of the people they should be caring for may ring bells for some of us in social work. Culture change is being recommended but how do you change a culture? How do you re-focus an organisation from the top to the bottom? Will people at all levels see that they were wrong and be able to reassert the values of care and compassion with which (presumably) they entered the profession? As social workers, especially in a time of reducing resources, it behoves us to strive to maintain our professional values and assertively point out where there is a danger to service users, either because of changed ways of working or during transition to new ways of working (new ways of working may be good). We are obliged to keep ourselves and hence our service users informed about needs and resources and to pass on information about imbalances between the two to our managers.

Further reflection sees links between what happened at Staffs and the Libor scandal in banking and even the purveying of possibly suspect horsemeat instead of beef in our food. These scandals are characterised by people who seem to have no moral compass or to have mislaid it, and are working only for themselves to ensure they make a profit or receive a bonus, no matter who suffers. Perhaps we can avail ourselves of the backlash against this conduct to stand up for our profession, which is an ethical one, and support our service users.

Finally the England team is busy organising events including a range of seminars, the annual AGM/conference, the student conference to name a few. Two England events will celebrate World Social Work Day on 19 March 2013; a coffee morning in our head office open to all to drop in for a cuppa and cake followed by an event in Parliament in the afternoon (details in PSW). We are asking that if you cannot attend our coffee morning you consider having an event to celebrate global social work and if you do please send us your photos!