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BASW Cymru membership tops 1,000 for the first time as fees frozen for year ahead

BASW membership has passed 15,000 for the first time in the Association’s history, and BASW Cymru has just topped 1,000 members, landmarks that coincide with a decision to freeze subscription fees at 2012 rates.

Membership of the professional association for social workers is up 29% since 2008, with record numbers in all four UK countries. In Wales, membership is up 12% on this time last year.

With a new membership year about to commence BASW has said it will encourage the growth to continue by freezing membership fees at 2012 levels.

BASW Cymru Manager Robin Moulster emphasised BASW Cymru’s increased ability to influence policy and represent social workers in Wales. "Growing our membership means growing our professional strength, which is good news for social workers who continue to strive to produce the best services possible for the citizens of Wales.

"This achievement would not have been reached without the teamwork and hard work of all the staff and the BASW Cymru Committee. However, we mustn’t be complacent as there is much work still to do to change cultures and conditions as well as influence key Government policy and legislation. We also need to recruit people who haven’t yet realised the importance of their professional association. We all have a part to play, so talk with colleagues in your own office about why BASW membership is so important to you and the people to whom you provide services."

Evidence from new joiners suggests social workers looking for greater support from their social work peers and a strong professional voice have contributed to the record increase, with many feeling the strain from a difficult period working in hard-pressed services.

Fifty per cent of new members who joined the UK-wide Association in the past year have said they need support from people who really understand the job.

Referrals to BASW's trade union arm, the Social Workers Union, continue to rise, up 55% since 2009. Members report rising incidents of intimidation and bullying at work, stress from unmanageable caseloads and enormous challenges arising from cuts – workplace restructurings, redundancies, new contracts with diminished terms and conditions and axed car allowances. Members are also reporting rising difficulties in obtaining references for new jobs, despite blemish free employment records.

One new member told BASW: "I joined because I felt that social work is under threat and I feel vulnerable in my current employment."

BASW has responded to this need for greater support by freezing membership fees for 2013/2014.

BASW's Chief Executive Bridget Robb said: "Social workers are working in incredibly tough conditions, struggling with ever higher demand for services and diminishing resources with which to cope.

“What has become clear is that social workers want specialist support from people who understand the terrain social workers are operating within, because they have done the job themselves. The numbers show us that BASW is increasingly being seen as the organisation it was always meant to be – the voice for social work, the home for social workers.

“While people are continuing to join us at a remarkable rate, however, we know that times are tough for many social workers who haven’t had a pay rise for some time, which is why we are making it easier for people to join by freezing membership rates at 2012 prices.”

Other comments from social workers on why they have joined BASW:
"I feel that social work as a profession is in crisis and I wished to add my voice and support to a professional social work body."

“[BASW is] an organisation for social workers in a workplace where [the] social work role is being eroded daily.”

“It is so good that there is an organisation such as BASW for social workers to stand up for social work as a profession and to represent and support social workers.”