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Social Workers Brief MPs on Funding Challenges

The British Association of Social Workers Northern Ireland (BASW NI) has met with an influential group of backbench MPs to highlight challenges facing the social work profession.

BASW NI National Director, Carolyn Ewart, addressed the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee as part of its inquiry into funding priorities for the region’s health and social care budget.

Speaking after the evidence session Ms Ewart said: “BASW NI is pleased to bring the growing pressures on social work services to the attention of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. These pressures result from financial constraints, rising demand, unnecessary bureaucracy, and increases in the complexity of the problems experienced by the people social workers support.

“We welcome the Committee’s interest in this area, as although responsibility for social work services is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, many challenges facing our profession are driven by the UK Government’s austerity agenda, which has increased levels of poverty and worsened social problems.

“As well as using its influence to encourage the formation of a Northern Ireland Executive to ensure challenges are addressed locally, we have urged the Committee to bring pressure to bear on the UK Government to put right the devastating social impacts stemming from a decade of austerity.”

BASW NI’s evidence to the committee highlighted increasing pressures on children’s services, evidenced by a 19% growth in the number of looked after children between 2011 and 2017. The Association also outlined challenges facing adult services, demonstrated by a 29% increase in the number of people aged 65 and over referred for assessment of social work or social care need in the last six years.

Highlighting the strain on mental health services in Northern Ireland, Ms Ewart continued by saying: “Due to the legacy of trauma associated with the Troubles, there is greater demand on mental health services in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain. However, despite increased need, mental health services have long been underfunded, and Northern Ireland has no suicide prevention strategy as the Protect Life 2 strategy cannot be published without Ministerial approval.

Carolyn concluded by saying: “The challenges facing our mental health services encapsulate the wider difficulties facing the social work sector. To address them we need a Northern Ireland Executive overseeing provision of high-quality services, backed up by sustained increases in funding. Delivery of both is long overdue.”


Notes to Editors

  • Carolyn Ewart—BASW NI National Director, and Andy McClenaghan—BASW NI Public Affairs and Communications Officer, will be available for interview.
  • The British Association Social Workers (BASW), the largest professional body for social workers in the UK, has 21,000 members employed in frontline, management, academic and research positions in all care settings.


Andy McClenaghan, Public Affairs and Communications Officer

Mobile: 07702 517560 / 07792 124127