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BASW Chair blog: Gerry Nosowska

What does it mean to be a member-led association?

I love seeing the passion of BASW members, hearing from members and member-involvement is what keeps BASW relevant and helpful.

With over 21,000 members covering a diverse range in background, experience, passion and interests, it can be a challenge for a Chair to act on members’ priorities – but a challenge I welcome.

For example, recent events across the UK are impacting different parts of the profession, including health and social care integration in Northern Ireland, a new regulator in England, a new health and social care policy in Wales and a review of the Children Act in Scotland.

So how does Council – and I as Chair – respond to, lead, and encourage members’ priorities and activities?

I think we do this in two main ways:

  • We listen to what members want and oversee a plan that helps us to achieve this
  • We support members to get on with the things that they know will make a difference.

In the first Council meeting that I chaired recently, I could see this in action.

We looked at two motions from the AGM that were voted for directly by members. The Northern Ireland committee will lead on bringing pressure to bear to re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive, while the Policy, Ethics and Human Rights committee will lead on campaigning across the UK for the removal of the Universal Credit two-child cap and associated ‘rape clause’.

We planned for important opportunities for member engagement including the UK Standing Conference for Social Work and Social Workers in the Autumn, and the BASW AGM and Conference in Belfast next summer.

We spent a chunk of the meeting looking at the strategic plan. BASW has a member-created 2020 vision. The plan supports this and sets out how we will work to be the Strong, Independent Voice of Social Work and Social Workers.

Our financial year starts in October, so we are currently setting out the main areas of work for the year ahead and the budget for them. These include: supporting members through advice and representation, guidance and advocacy; finalising the new website; growing our membership and diversity; developing ProfDE to offer more events and learning opportunities; accelerating our campaigns against poverty and to improve working conditions; influencing policy; and developing service user and carer involvement in our work.

The plan from council is high level and is informed by what we learn from members. The different committees, branches and groups across the UK – led by members - get on with what they know will help to achieve the overall aims, supported by staff. They pick up ideas from other members. They let Council know how they are doing and what we can do to help.

It is essential that BASW is visible, knows practice, and takes an ethical, evidenced lead on issues that matter to social workers. We rely on our members in every corner of social work to help us with this. A priority for me is to ensure that members see how BASW responds to its grassroots, and how we act on and prioritise proposals.

I need to be visible and informed too. So, I will be visiting national committees and staff in the four nations, attending branches, and continuing my ‘day job’ supporting social workers and managers. I plan to shadow social workers in each country too.

Thank you for speaking up and taking action. I will keep listening and do my best with Council, staff and all of BASW to support our members and our profession.