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BASW Cymru raises concerns with Swansea University regarding the proposed cut in staffing to their Social Work Programme.

Read BASW Cymru's National Director, Allison Hulmes' full letter to Swansea University raising members' concerns to the proposed cut in staffing to the BSc and MSc Social Work programme...

Dear Professor Boyle

In response to concerns expressed by members, I write to you in my capacity as National Director for Wales at the British Association of Social Workers to raise issue in relation the proposed cut in staffing on the Social Care Wales approved BSc and MSc Social Work programmes at Swansea University. Of special concern is the University’s proposal to remove a full-time post left vacant by the tragic death of Dr Michele Raithby in March 2020.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is the professional association for social work in the UK with offices in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England. With a membership of 21,000 we exist to promote the best possible social work services for all people who may need them, while also securing the well-being of social workers working in all health and social care settings.

Staffing requirements for the social work programmes, which lead to not only a degree, but also a professional qualification with the legally protected title of ‘Social Worker’ are set out in The Framework for the Degree in Social work in Wales (Section 8; 1b) which states that any ‘material reduction’ in teaching staff requires the consent of Social Care Wales, the regulator for social work. We do not believe that consent has been given by Social Care Wales.

Swansea has a long and proud history of the highest standards of teaching in the various iterations of the programmes which have produced ethical, skilled and research minded social workers. Social work is a complex and highly skilled profession which takes place in often contested spaces and is accountable to, and must hold, the public confidence. The role of the teaching staff in producing ethically accountable social workers who maintain public confidence cannot be overstated. That chain of accountability also sits within the Universities by ensuring they comply with the requirements set out by the regulator for social workers, including staffing ratios.

The Association is only too aware of the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the social work qualifying programmes. Teaching staff have gone over and above to ensure that social work students were able to qualify on time, without reducing the quality of that teaching. This has not gone un-noticed by the students who have expressed to us most strongly, their appreciation of the efforts made.

We are aware that the commitment of teaching staff in Swansea has been set against a backdrop of understaffing, which has included the loss of much a loved colleague (a staff member highly valued and much missed throughout the profession) which has impacted significantly on the wellbeing, resilience and morale of the social work teaching staff at Swansea University.

Swansea University has risen magnificently to the challenges of Covid-19 and is leading on research around the wellbeing of the population. There is a direct correlation between the wellbeing of the population and the quality of social workers a programme produces. It is, therefore, imperative that Swansea University invests in its teaching staff on programmes with proven demand, places filled for the next academic year and which are financially buoyant. This is essential to produce the highest quality social workers who will be central to building strong and cohesive families and communities as we rebuild following the pandemic.

Without increasing current staffing, we are concerned that the teaching staff will not be able to sustain the burden on their wellbeing that ongoing understaffing will place on them, which will impact on the quality of teaching the students have and ultimately on the quality of service that the most vulnerable of our citizens within society should receive.

The Association urges the Vice Chancellor to ensure that the requirements of The Framework for the Degree in Social work in Wales are adhered to and that the request to fill the vacated post be granted as a matter of urgency in order to enable delivery of the programmes in September and for a generation to come.

I welcome a response to the concerns outlined above.

Kind regards

Allison Hulmes, Registered Social Worker

National Director for Wales, BASW Cymru