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PSW: Stop blaming social workers, says MP at BASW Social Work Summit

Shahid Naqvi reports on the social work summit for PSW (Professional Social Work) magazine

The Government’s social work reforms are all about blaming social workers for the profession’s problems, a Labour MP claimed.

Speaking at BASW’s Social Work Summit in London, Emma Lewell-Buck, Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Social Work, said the problems practitioners are currently facing were “not of their own doing”.

She blamed government cuts to support services for the most vulnerable, underfunding of mental health, and a “broken” adult social care system.

She said: “You can not separate social work from the wider environment because it is part of an overall social system. You deplete one part of it and another part of it suffers.

“There is no doubt that this current government have social work in their sights. The Prime Minister with his focus on reforming social work education, assessment and accreditation, has given clear signal that he feels the problem is with social workers themselves and he continues to stick the boot in by reinforcing that the best and the brightest social workers will come only from Frontline.” Frontline is the new fast-track training route aimed at “high-flying” graduates.

Ms Lewell-Buck criticised the Government’s focus on adoption “to the detriment of intervention in early years services that could keep families together”.

And she expressed concern at what she called a “watered down” version of privatisation by allowing not-for-profit arms of profit organisations to take over children’s services.

“You only have to look at the crisis in adults social care to see how well the market has managed to look after our most vulnerable clients,” she added.

Ms Lewell-Buck, who until two years ago was a practising social worker, claimed repeated underfunding in mental health and sanctions such as the Government’s work programme were leading to a “crisis-led model” in which early intervention was becoming “all but impossible” in some areas.

Ms Lewell-Buck criticised the Government for failing to focus on reform that could make a real and positive difference to the profession.

“I have often thought simple fixes to IT or case recording or extra admin support are always an excellent start point, but for some reason, perhaps because they aren’t headline grabbing for government, these have never been given serious consideration.”

She also claimed that the principles of the Care Act were not being realised due to a lack of funding and some service users reported experiencing a decrease in choice and provision.

Read BASW Chair Guy Shennan's blog post about the day 'Social work practitioners and service users at the summit'