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Happy New Year to you all!

Ruth Allen CEO BASW reflects on the year ahead

Chief Executive of BASW
Ruth Allen CEO BASW

2020 is significant for BASW as we are 50 years old in June.  We will be taking this opportunity not only to tell the heritage stories of where we have come from, but to explore our legacy and create the stories of our future as a profession and an association- with shared ethics and values, in solidarity and hope with people whose lives are most affected by inequality and injustice.

Today we face the challenge of promoting and developing social work in a new, populist political context focused on creating disruptive change in domestic and foreign affairs way beyond Brexit;  immigration,  human rights protections, social care funding and reform, criminal justice, judicial independence, welfare rights, economic liberalisation, environmental impact – are all up for grabs. We need to be ready and strong - not only to respond, but to shape and create the narrative and the vision for now and tomorrow.

BASW was created in 1970 out of the integration of the 7 main UK organisations that covered social work with children, families, adults and people with mental health needs across the UK. We became part of the International Federation of Social Workers, joining countries such as the USA, Canada, Austria, Sweden, Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia (to name just a few) which already had longstanding, unified associations representing social work as one profession. BASW is now one of the largest, most active and well organised social work associations in the world.

BASW has persisted, adapted and provided leadership through diverse eras of social work and social care; from genericism in the 70s and 80s; separation of statutory children and families and adults social work in the 90s;  privatisation, the ‘purchaser provider split’ and ‘care management’; the rise and struggles of anti-racist and anti-discriminatory practice; efforts at integration within the NHS, particularly in mental health; devolution of law and  policy across the four nations of the UK; tragedies, scandals and moral panics; the introduction of social work regulators; educational reform and new routes to qualification.

Throughout all this, BASW has upheld ethical and human rights principles, looked to the international evidence, worked in collaboration and solidarity with people using services, supported innovation and enabled social workers to have strong, values-based, collective identities, voice and influence even when governmental and employer policies have been most at odds with our professional views. 

Many things enable BASW to flourish today – and none are taken for granted. The extraordinary voluntary effort and creativity of members and allies; committed, caring, talented staff; our independence from government or any grant giving body; our increasing membership; our relevance and ability to provide practical support to social workers; our partnerships and alliances with many organisations including the Social Workers Union; our determination to make a difference for people, for the profession and for society; our integration of practice, values, ethics and impact.

This creative combination makes us the beating heart of social work in the UK. And heart is what we need for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

I look forward to working with you to continue to build on the collaborative strength of social work for the benefit of our profession, for social workers and for the individuals and communities that we serve. 

Our programme of UK and country-specific activities, resources and ways to get involved throughout 2020/21 is available online and will be sent out in ebulletins, in our magazine and other publications, and through social media  


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