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BASW responds to the Comprehensive Spending Review

Responding to the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review for 2015/16, BASW said:

The addition of £3.8 billion into a pooled budget for health and social care services, combined with the diversion to local authorities of £200 million from the NHS in 2014-15 million to support better services aimed at keeping older and disabled people out of hospital, is a welcome development. Social care has long been the poor relation of the NHS and the services offered by social workers in this area need a sustained period of investment to ensure the preventative measures which have been proven to work are allowed to flourish.  

It can only be a source of extreme concern, however, that the Chancellor has, as anticipated, imposed new cuts of 10% on local authorities. Combined with fresh limits on welfare spending – potentially slashing £4 billion from low income people – social workers will be forced to support ever greater numbers of vulnerable people with ever dwindling resources. While frontline child protection posts may be theoretically safeguarded, the same is not so of the services and support needed to properly care for children, families and adults in need. We can expect more closures of day care centres for older people and Sure Start facilities for struggling parents. There will be fewer administrative staff employed to enable social workers to leave their desks and make all-important visits to potentially vulnerable people in their homes. 

The resources needed for local authorities to implement the workforce reforms backed by central Government and aimed at raising social work standards – including better supervision and sweeping away bureaucracy in child protection work – will simply not be available.

It is to be hoped that a further £200m investment in the 'troubled families' initiative proves effective. It is as yet too opaque and unproven to be certain that it offers something better than what social workers, whether employed in local authorities, the NHS or charitable organisations, have long since done – resources permitting – as part of their core work. 

Despite the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles casually suggesting 120,000 families have now been 'turned around' and that many more will follow, the case has simply not yet been made for the efficacy of the initiative. Such statements, and the project in general, lack detail and evidence, which must be presented to the public if this scheme is to be regarded as a legitimate and effective means of supporting families living chaotic lives. 

It must also be emphasised that the sums involved are a drop in the ocean compared with the cuts being made to local authority budgets. This week social workers used a poll by the British Association of Social Workers to warn ministers that they were already struggling to properly fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities. More than 94% of respondents to the weekend survey said more cuts  would put the lives of vulnerable people in jeopardy, coming on top of already unmanageable reductions in spending since 2010.