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SWU’s John McGowan issues warning of social workers under immense pressure, following Northamptonshire crisis and damning new report

Social services in England face further cuts amid warnings that one in ten local authorities will have run out of reserve funds in the next three years.

Concern was raised after the spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) published a dire report into the financial sustainability of local authorities, available here

It comes in the wake of fears that Conservative-run Northamptonshire County Council is on the brink of bankruptcy after it became the first authority in 20 years to impose emergency spending controls.

The NAO claimed a further 15 authorities were on the verge of a similar crisis.

A failure by the Government to meet the rising cost of adult social care has been cited as to blame.

John McGowan, General Secretary of Social Workers Union (SWU), said: “The issues with Northampton are a real concern, with some of our members highlighting the difficulties of trying to balance their professional role against the increasing battle of bureaucracy and cuts to staff budgets.

“It is clear this will have an impact on other local authorities already struggling with budgets. In our experience, deep budget cuts force social workers to take on more cases than ever, putting them under pressure to deliver a service to people that are often vulnerable with fewer resources.”

BASW member and Northamptonshire resident David Jones questioned the future of children’s and adult services.

He added: “Will the crisis be left to run until there is a major collapse enabling imposed local government reorganisation?

“What happens to vulnerable families and those with care needs in the interim? Who will be responsible for any deaths or care crises?”

The Government highlighted “real term” increases in funding over the next two years and added a fair funding review is under way.

Impact on social workers

Recent research by Bath Spa University and supported by SWU and BASW highlighted that as many as 92% of the 100,000 registered social workers in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland are working an average of 10 hours of unpaid overtime every week.

This equates to approximately 480 hours every year, or 64 days, per person.  

McGowan said: “To keep up, our members are simply giving away days of their personal time. If this keeps up, and the social workers we spoke with do leave the profession, local authorities throughout the UK will be forced to pay for contract workers who are expensive, transient, and thus not a long-term solution.”