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Open letter calls for austerity policies to be rolled back as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Austerity Action Group is calling for decade long austerity policies to be rolled back as part of the response to the Covid-19

The Austerity Action Group, consisting of social workers and people with direct experience of using services, has today written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for decade long austerity policies to be rolled back as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The group, which is funded by the Social Workers Union (SWU) and supported by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), has heard how older people and people with disabilities have felt increasingly marginalised and devalued in society by the pernicious impact of harsh benefit regimes and cuts to local services.

The open letter calls on the Chancellor to:

  1. Work with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for a long overdue settlement for the proper funding of social care.
  2. Conduct a rapid review of the tax and benefit system to ensure that it works fairly for all, addresses the issue of in-work poverty, reverses the growth of inequality and considers the introduction of a universal basic income.
  3. Ensure that the systematic destruction of local authority services is reversed by a funding settlement that recognises their crucial role as promoters of public health and well being with unique links to local communities, and as a bulwark against current and future threats.

Read the letter in full here.

Group member and service user Jane (not her real name) said:  "I think it is important to remember that those who not already living in a position of privilege are most likely to be struggling more than others when it comes to things like accessing basic necessities , staying mentally healthy and with social isolation."

She adds,  "When it comes to welfare, now more than ever we can see that bureaucratic, cruel, penalising and non-personalised systems such as Universal Credit are not working and will not work in the long term for the majority.”

Jon Dudley, joint signatory of the letter and a social worker for 40 years said:  “Sadly, the pandemic has highlighted what we already knew, austerity kills. We have a chance to review what is important to society and consider the things we really value. Social cohesion is vital in the campaign against the virus and we must make a reality of the notion of not leaving anyone behind, regardless of age, race or disability. The government must play it's part in this.”

John McGowan, General Secretary SWU added:  "Austerity, as a response to our last big national crisis (the banking crisis), failed to account for its effects on inequality and health and coronavirus is exposing the consequences of this. To face up to the coronavirus crisis, we need to learn from our mistakes and place inequality at the front and centre of our response’. Imposing another age of austerity after the coronavirus crisis would have a profound impact on societies most vulnerable people. The possible extent and impact on local authorities' social care budgets will be massive, but cutting spending - after a decade of cuts - would be hugely damaging. I fear that the option of cutting services would only add to existing pressures on the likes of social work services."

Gerry Nosowska, BASW Chair said: “For our country to thrive, we need to break people out of poverty. The pandemic has shown how connected we are, and what can be done with political will and public concern. Concerned citizens, compassionate leaders, caring public services, and thoughtful enterprises of all kinds can now build something better.”

The Austerity Action Group was established by SWU and BASW to continue the anti austerity work and in particular to give voice to those with lived experience of the impact of austerity and of using services diminishing or removed under financial pressure.

The group has found common cause with the People's Assembly Against Austerity, joining a number of their marches. It has also shown solidarity with Justice4Grenfell marches in London as well as campaigns to highlight the plight of rough sleepers and funeral poverty.


Further information