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BASW’s Boot Out Austerity campaign takes to the valleys of Wales

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Anti Austerity Group have donned their boots again for a rally and 15-mile walk as part of our campaign against austerity policies.

Led by BASW chair, Guy Shennan, and BASW Cmyru professional officer, Allison Hulmes, a score of people set off this morning from Blackwood Miners Institute in Blackwood, Gent and will march to the Chapter Arts venue in Canton, Cardiff, arriving around 5pm.

A BASW AGM fringe event will follow at the venue, hosting discussions, debates, songs and entertainment, all to raise awareness and share best practice on how to deal with austerity policies that are having a caustic effect in not just Wales, but across the UK. Leanne Wood – Leader of Plaid Cymru and Assembly Member for Rhondda will be in attendance.

“As a social worker I am acutely aware of the devastating impact austerity measures are continuing to have on many of the people who use our services,” says Shennan.

“Austerity has hit the poorest people in our society disproportionately, and many of the people we see have problems caused or exacerbated by poverty.”

The walk has received the backing of Huw Irranca-Davies, the minister for children, older people and social care for Wales, who said in a statement: “We have endured eight years of austerity with no signal from the UK Government that their policies are about to change.

“We know that austerity hits disabled people, women, and people living in poorer communities hardest, but we now face the prospect of 50,000 children being pushed into poverty by 2022.

“It is our social workers who are at the coal face, witnessing the devastating impact of austerity day in day out. It would be difficult to remain unaffected by what they see happening in our communities.

“Social workers are hard-working professionals with no political axe to grind, but those who come together today feel they must shine a light on the effect austerity policies are having on the people they support.”

He added: “The walk they embark on today is testament to that. I share their concerns and pay tribute to them for the invaluable work they do as part of the whole social care workforce – a workforce we are committed to supporting through these challenging times.”

The impact of austerity

The problems caused by cuts to public services affect both children’s and adult social care services. In adult social care, austerity has contributed to a situation where it is commonly agreed that there will be a huge funding gap by 2020, with the estimate of the respectable think tank, the King’s Fund, being £2.5 billion.

There is a similarly dire situation in children’s services, with the Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, predicting a £2 billion funding gap by 2020.

Councils are already struggling to cope with rising demand for support, with a child being referred to children's services every 49 seconds last year. Yet, the amount of support services available to support these children has been drastically reduced, given the 40% cut in central government funding to councils since 2010.

Cuts to benefits and welfare reform have also hit people hard, and social workers have had to become used to referring people to food banks.

“I find it terrible, that in our wealthy country in the 21st century, we are having to call upon charity for people to be able to eat,” says Shennan.

“BASW is actively campaigning on this issue and I fully support this campaign and the call to bring to an end these austerity measures.”