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CSR: Social workers say failure to invest in “human capital” increases the numbers of people at risk and the likelihood of civil unrest

Ahead of Wednesday’s Comprehensive Spending Review, social workers warned their ability to protect families will be compromised and civil unrest could ensue if further cutbacks to social services are approved.

A survey by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) found its members believe the further 10% cut to local authority budgets, reportedly agreed by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, will make it much harder for them to help troubled families and individuals.

The Association warned there was a risk that marginalised sections of society could vent their anger on the streets, similar to the summer rioting of 2011 in Britain and the kind of unrest seen in other countries.

94% of social workers polled said they believed hampering attempts to help people using social work services will also increase pressure on other public services such as acute health services, the police, the courts and prisons, because social workers will be less able to undertake preventive work.

Bridget Robb, Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said: “More cuts to services will leave more children and adults at risk of harm and neglect.

"Government cuts are leaving local authorities with very painful decisions when they know that they cannot provide adequate services to protect children and adults in their communities from harm and neglect. We continue to see the growth in referrals of children and adults not being adequately cared for in their families, but it is intolerable for the government to say that the solution is for those people to be quickly removed from their families and placed with those who are well off enough to become adopters or provide their own money to care for these people.

“But the current alternative is equally unpalatable. Reducing the ability of social workers to help and protect people already results in greater pressure on more expensive services, such as Pupil Referral Units, the police, prisons, A & E departments and the court system.

“Deep cuts to services are already having a terrible effect on the capacity of social workers to respond to a demand that continues to grow, with less time to assess the risks people face and less time to visit people who in some instances are living in highly vulnerable and dangerous situations.

“We are urging the Chancellor and local authority leaders to protect frontline protection services for children and adults and invest in human capital both as a moral imperative and because it makes economic sense.”

In a snap poll taken this weekend by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), 95% of social work professionals said that their ability to protect vulnerable children and adults will be seriously damaged by anticipated new cuts to local authority budgets.

Nearly nine out of ten said vulnerable people who rely on social work services will have their lives placed at “far greater risk” as a result of new cuts on top of existing cuts. A further 12% said the risks would be “slightly greater”. Only one respondent out of 638 professionals contacted between 21 and 24 June anticipated no impact on the lives of the people who need social workers.

Comments from social workers who completed the survey included: “There has been a significant impact on decisions being made about care packages based on funding rather than the needs of the service user. There is too much emphasis on short term savings rather than the long term impact for the service user, which will then likely cost more money in the future due to their needs not being met at this time.”

“I can only predict social unrest if there will be further cuts.”

“I know of many cases where a variety of service users are at risk in dangerous and unacceptable [circumstances]. In fact it is a public scandal.”

In a direct plea to the Chancellor George Osborne, one social worker said: “Please think of the children and the impact on them and make them your priority. Perhaps you should come and meet a child who has suffered trauma.”

The Care Leavers Association (CLA) endorsed the survey’s findings. David Graham, National Director said: “The outcomes for care leavers are currently extremely poor. The CLA believes that further budget cuts will have a disastrous effect on this group. Too many care leavers are abandoned by the state. This only leads to deeper disadvantage and further support costs later in life.”