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Upholding Human Rights during Covid-19

An overarching statement from BASW

This statement was updated 24 June 2020

Changes made.  BASW first published this overarching statement on Upholding Human Rights during Covid-19 on 27 April 2020.  The statement published 24 June 2020 replaces this statement and is an updated version

Social work is a human rights profession. Social workers’ ethics and purpose is grounded in upholding human rights. This is no different during times of crisis. In fact, during complex and uncertain times it is vital to hold firm to universal human rights.

The pandemic is exposing great inequality in impact and in human rights protection across the UK. The pressures arising from the pandemic and the difficulties in responding to these run the risk of undermining entitlements, reducing rights and removing safeguards. The starkest expressions of this are in the inequality of access to protection from abuse and neglect, access to treatment to sustain life, and the unequal and devastating death rates in our society.

BASW demands that:

  • There are no unnecessary or avoidable changes to rights and entitlements
  • People with lived experience and the social work profession are fully involved in any decisions about changes to rights and to services
  • Any changes are a last resort and national redistribution of resource prevents postcode lotteries emerging
  • Any changes have a full impact assessment
  • Any changes are the minimum necessary and for the minimum period necessary
  • Any changes have clear accountability, democratic oversight and review
  • People who are affected have access to advocacy, legal support, and redress through complaints and challenges

Where this has not happened, we expect national and local governments to amend their decisions

We also demand that:

  • There is clear ethical guidance for social workers on carrying out any changes to duties
  • There is clear accountability by statutory organisations and government for changes, and individual social workers are not held responsible for mandated changes to their practice
  • Social workers have the equipment and support they need to carry out essential human rights duties safely
  • Social workers’ expertise in finding ways to creatively support people and uphold rights is encouraged by employers, and national and local governments work with us to share learning.

And that:

  • There are full investigations into the inequality of impact and response during Covid-19

BASW will continue to take a lead by supporting social workers, producing ethical and practice guidance, and lobbying alongside allies

There are some specific areas of urgent concern that BASW is working on:

  • Regulations for children and families in England – BASW is working with allies to challenge the reduction in safeguards for children; and has produced guidance to help social workers support children
  • Care Act easements in England – BASW is working with sector leaders to support local authorities not to have to enact these; and is sharing guidance and good practice
  • Deaths in care homes – BASW has issued safeguarding adults guidance including the role of social workers in supporting people in placements; we consider that an urgent review is needed of the role of placements in adult social care and that a new way of supporting adults who cannot be at home is required, we will work with sector leaders on this
  • Conditions, equipment and resources for safe practice for social workers and other social care staff supporting children and adults in the community throughout the pandemic

We are continuing to monitor human rights issues through our survey, please respond

And we are offering direct support to social workers, more information here



Further information