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NIASW: Health & Social Care reform agenda set to fail without social work voice

NIASW is warning that the lack of social work representation in the debate on the future delivery of Health and Social Care services is setting the reform agenda up to fail.

Northern Ireland’s professional body for social workers has written an open letter to Health Minister Simon Hamilton questioning why the social work profession is being marginalised in comparison to colleagues working in health services.

The letter criticises government proposals to disband the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and is asking the minister to rectify the lack of representation of social work on the Expert Review Panel chaired by Professor Rafael Bengoa.

NIASW also believes the functions carried out by the HSCB are not easily dispersible to Trusts and says the decision to disband demonstrates a complete lack of recognition by Mr Hamilton of the success of social care commissioning and oversight of many statutory functions.

The letter, published today, describes the role of social workers as “fundamentally important” to the delivery of many aspects of health and social care and that the review panel would be compromised without social work expertise, stating: “there is an absolute necessity for the involvement of social work where 46% of the spend of the Board relates to social and community services”. 

Social worker and NIASW Chair Marcella Leonard, said: “Social work input is needed on the panel to ensure that any proposed reforms keep people at the heart of services. You cannot reform health and social care without social work and the decision to exclude social workers is contradictory to the principles of 2011’s Transforming Your Care, which was billed as a road map for change in the provision of health and social care services.

“Any changes to the delivery of health services will have a knock-on effect to social care; you simply can't deliver one without the other. Our members are very perturbed by the lack of social work representation on the review panel and we are urging the minister to urgently rectify the situation.

“We also believe the decision to disband the HSCB is a misstep and we are asking the minister to reconsider. It is widely recognised that the HSCB has played a pivotal role in commissioning social care services for children and vulnerable adults, it sets standards and has oversight of statutory functions. We recognise change needs to take place in health care but social care should not be penalised as a result.”

Read the letter sent by NIASW to Minister Simon Hamilton MLA