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BASW NI 2019 Round-Up

At the end of another busy year we look back at some of the vital work undertaken by BASW NI to represent the interests of the social work profession.

Brexit

BASW has campaigned tirelessly to ensure the interests of social workers and their service users are protected as the UK leaves the EU. In addition to working in partnership with the Irish Association of Social Workers to highlight potential impacts on an all-island basis, BASW NI coordinated the International Federation of Social Workers Europe’s representations to the Prime Minister and Taoiseach concerning Brexit.

In addition, we sought, via our response to the Migration Advisory Committee Consultation on Salary Threshold and Points-Based System Commission, to ensure UK immigration policy post-Brexit does not adversely affect the social work or social care workforce.

Welfare Reform Mitigation

Since its introduction, BASW NI has campaigned for the removal of the Universal Credit two-child limit. Throughout 2019 we played a key role as part of the Cliff Edge Coalition NI steering group, calling for an extension of the existing welfare reform mitigation package, and a strengthening of the mitigations to address the impacts of Universal Credit.

Our written evidence to the inquiry jointly held by the Northern Ireland Affairs and Work and Pensions Committees into welfare policy in Northern Ireland contributed to the Committees’ recommendations for existing mitigations to be extended for four years and the implementation of the two-child limit halted.

BASW NI has petitioned all local political parties to give their backing to the Committees’ recommendations and called on the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and Work and Pensions to act on them.

Bureaucracy

In October, following written and oral evidence provided by BASW NI, the Westminster NI Affairs Committee recommended the creation of a task force with the remit and the authority to remove unnecessary and duplicated paperwork from social work. The Committee recommended the task force should complete this work by summer 2020.

General Election Manifesto

Although responsibility for social work is devolved, Westminster's decisions on social security, Brexit & public spending impact the social work profession and service users in NI. Ahead of the general election BASW NI lobbied NI political parties to advance the following three key policy asks:

  • End austerity in public services: invest in social care and reform Universal Credit
  • Resolve the UK-wide homelessness emergency
  • Whatever the outcome of Brexit, protect the peace in Northern Ireland and the human rights legislation that protects all citizens

Professional Identity

BASW NI, in partnership with the NI Social Care Council, IASW and Coru, has undertaken research—the largest study of its kind—exploring social workers' professional identity on the island of Ireland.

The forthcoming findings will be used to strengthen the profession by fostering professional identity in contexts where it is found to be lacking, and enabling social workers to better articulate, within a multidisciplinary context, what is both unique and vital about the social work role.

Violence Against Social Workers

Our lobbying campaign which followed the publication of the Insult and Injury report in June 2018 led to the Chief Social Work Officer’s decision to implement a Task Force responsible for safeguarding social workers from incidents of abuse and violence.

Throughout 2019 BASW NI was closely involved in the Task Force’s development of an employer guidance framework for all HSC employers of social work and social care staff, which will be published by the Department of Health in due course. The guidance aims to replicate—across all social work employers—existing good practice in professional and organisational arrangements for supporting the safety and wellbeing of staff affected by violence, aggression, or intimidating behaviours.

Primary Care Multidisciplinary Teams

During 2019 BASW NI led the discussion concerning how the various professions involved in the roll out of multidisciplinary primary care teams will work together. In June we hosted a roundtable seminar at which various professional bodies and the Department of Health participated to ensure colleagues understood our views on how the social work role in MDTs should be scoped to make best use of social work skills and expertise.

Voices of Social Work Through The Troubles launch

In February 2019 BASW NI, in partnership with the NI Social Care Council, launched the Voices of Social Work Through The Troubles research report. The project documented, for the first time, the experiences of social workers who practised during the NI conflict.

The launch was followed by a series of workshops held across NI and led to the participation of BASW NI members in the UTV Frontline documentary series.

Courts

In August BASW NI responded to the shadow Family Justice Board consultation on proposals for a pilot scheme to trial media access to family courts, and met with Justice O’Hara and members of the shadow Family Justice Board Sub-Committee to outline its concerns regarding the proposals. In our response we highlighted concerns regarding the potential impacts for the children involved, risks to social workers, and the proposed procedures for accreditation of journalists.

Throughout 2019 BASW NI also engaged with social workers to examine how time lost while awaiting court proceedings affects the rest of their caseloads, and identify practical recommendations to reduce the amount of time spent inefficiently in court.  

This work will continue in the early part of 2020 and we intend to seek endorsement of our recommendations by the Bar of Northern Ireland, prior to presenting them to the Department of Justice.

Restrictive Practices

In November BASW NI published its policy statement on restraint and seclusion of children and young people in schools and educational facilities. We have called for standardised guidance from the Department of Education, mandatory training for all staff working directly with children and young people with additional needs and mandatory reporting of all incidents of restraint or seclusion.

Once a NI Executive is restored, we will campaign to have these requirements placed on a statutory footing.

Media

Throughout 2019 BASW NI continued to be a strong and articulate voice promoting the interests of the social work profession across broadcast, print and online platforms, and via our own social media accounts.

Training

During 2019 BASW NI provided training courses on:

  • Attachment-based Practice with Children, Adults and Families
  • Universal Credit
  • Welfare reform
  • Restorative Approaches to Working with Families in Conflict.

We also provided opportunities for members to develop their skills and knowledge via our professional development forums and at events including our World Social Work Day celebration and the BASW UK Conference and AGM which was held in Belfast.

We will begin the new year by providing vital training on Implementing the Mental Capacity Act (NI) 2016 in January.

Further information