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SWU Blog: Almost 900,000 public sector workers to get pay rise, but not social workers

Blog by John McGowan, General Secretary of the Social Workers Union (SWU)

The Governments public-sector pay rise is not good news for social workers and really a “worrying tactic” after the Chancellor quietly dropped warnings of future pay restraints and cuts within hours of the announcement. 

The Chancellor revealed on Tuesday that 900,000 front-line workers, including doctors, police and teachers, will receive a pay rise of up to 3.1 per cent — but this does not include social workers. 

With warnings from the Government on “tough choices” in other areas of spending, prompting fears of cuts. 

Here’s why social workers weren’t included in the public sector pay rise announcement

Most public sector social workers are paid by local authorities, who get their funding from a combination of local business rates, council taxes, fees/fines for local services and government grants.

While there is a degree of government say in how much local authorities receive to carry out their duties, the decision-making over spending on the social work workforce is delegated to authorities.

As a result the government didn’t announce social workers as part of the 900,000 because it can’t – the sectors where it did announce rises are all areas that have their budgets set and paid for directly by the government.  In addition, a large number of social workers do not work for Local Authorities.

SWU with BASW continues to campaign and the main issues are wider than just a pay increase

The growth in independent unions shows that people, including students are interested in joining unions and working collectively. 

Help us to campaign further and get involved further. Worryingly, a large amount of social workers decide not to be involved in the Professional Association or a social work trade union but the professional would be stronger with more members involved and being active. 

There must be urgent and major investment within and beyond local authorities and not just pay rises, if social work is to play its fullest, necessary leading part in the recovery in communities across the country. Social work has always been the ‘poor relation’ in public services, and this needs to change.

When public health responses and national governmental decisions are scrutinised, the role of social workers in recovery and future emergency and public health planning needs to be recognised. There can be no effective public health strategy without social health, and social workers must be seen as critical to the health of the nation.

We cannot ignore the huge funding gap that exists in social work. Moreover, moves to invest in a centralised NHS and pay increases cannot come at the expense of local social care support yet again. There needs to be a collective realisation across all layers of government of the value of social work, and any bias addressed.