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Social workers highlight priority areas for action to Ministers for Health and Communities

The British Association of Social Workers Northern Ireland (BASW NI) has today held meetings with the Minister for Health, Robin Swann MLA, and the Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey MLA, to raise a series of pressing concerns for the social work profession.

During its meeting with the Health Minister, BASW NI stressed the urgent need to address the high level of social work vacancies which currently account for 9% of all social work posts in Health and Social Care. The Association also highlighted the importance of tackling problem bureaucracy to enable social workers to focus their time on their service users rather than on paperwork.

The need to ensure pay parity between NI social workers and their counterparts in Great Britain, and the lack of role-specific training in relation to the Mental Capacity Act (NI) 2016, were also brought to Minister Swann’s attention.

Speaking after the meeting, BASW NI Chair Orlaith McGibbon said: “Many challenges face the social work profession and our members daily encounter a raft of pressures which make it increasingly difficult to continue to provide high quality services to the people they support. I have outlined to the Minister the consequences both for social workers and their service users if the problems we identified are not addressed, and I look forward to working with him to advance solutions.”

At BASW NI’s meeting with the Minister for Communities, Ms McGibbon and her staff detailed the reality of poverty for many thousands of individuals and families supported by social workers across NI. BASW NI Welcomed the Minister’s recent decision to extend the Bedroom Tax mitigations and urged her to go further and strengthen the welfare reform mitigations package to include the Universal Credit two-child limit.

Families affected by the two-child limit lose out £2,780 a year for their third and every subsequent child, with the result that 9,000 more children will fall into poverty in NI.  

Ms McGibbon explained the ethical dilemma facing social workers as a result of the rape clause exemption to the two-child limit. Speaking about the rape clause Orlaith said: “Under the terms of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 social workers are required to report to the police information regarding a rape disclosed to them as part of a Universal Credit application, regardless of whether this contravenes the wishes of the woman concerned. I have asked the Minister for Communities to work in partnership with her colleague the Minister for Justice and amend the legislation in question to enable social workers to act in accordance with the wishes of their service users without fear of prosecution.”

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