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“We need to get on with it” – New charter to improve social work with disabled people

Social workers and disabled people have jointly produced a charter to improve services for the people who use them. Starting in October 2015 with a premise of “We need to think big and be ambitious for each other”, a working group led by the national network of service users and disabled people Shaping Our Lives and BASW's Adults Policy, Practice and Education Group has now produced a charter for change.

The charter - and accompanying position statement - aims to ensure all disabled adults and social workers work together to improve wellbeing. It sets out how to work together to tackle physical, social, economic and other barriers to independent living, so that disabled adults have the same choice, control and freedom as any other citizen - at home, at work, and as members of the community.

The working group believe that co-production is the way forward and want to encourage both people who use services and social workers to have clear expectations and better relationships that promote trust and respect. The position statement states that social workers and disabled people share common values, despite working within an increasingly challenging climate of a changing population, increased demand for services and a reduction of services available.

Ann Nutt, service user and joint Chair of Shaping Our Lives, said “the position statement and charter is important to both disabled people and social workers as it brings clarity and focuses on the development of a partnership strategy between disabled people and social workers; together we can achieve great changes within our society.” 

BASW Adults PPEG vice-chair Gerry Nosowska said: “Disabled adults still face poor experiences and outcomes with services and many social workers are frustrated by the conflict of being an advocate yet having to ‘ration’ services.

“We started with a blank piece of paper and we ended up with this position statement and charter. It was written through discussions between disabled adults and social workers from June 2015 and November 2016. All of our conversations were about how we can change the way we, as disabled adults and social workers, relate to each other so that we can achieve more together”.

Laura Able, who has benefited from social work in the past, said: “The Charter provides a clear way forward, builds on what has gone before and focuses on equalising the relationship between the person and their social worker. We need to get on with it.”

Joanna Matthews, Chair of Unlimited Oxfordshire, says “Some of our members have already faced cuts in their budgets or struggled to get a timely assessment. It really matters to have a good relationship with your social worker, so that in these times of cuts and hardship we can all work together to make a little go a long way."

Read the Position Statement and Charter in full HERE

Read Gerry Nosowska's Guardian blog We could all be Daniel Blake: social workers stand with disabled adults HERE