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BASW Cymru letter to Minister for Health and Social Services

27th March 2020

Dear Minister for Health and Social Services

I write to you at extraordinary times and wish to thank you and Welsh Assembly Government for all the work you are doing to keep us safe, in the most challenging of circumstances.

We are of course ensuring that our members have access to the most up to date information and advice.

At the start of the pandemic, BASW initiated a survey to hear directly from our members on the front-line about their experiences during the pandemic. So far, we have had over 1200 responses and are in the process of analysing them and responding to the concerns raised. We will share these concerns with you, Social Care Wales and local government stakeholders as soon as is practicable.

Many of the concerns we have already identified have been in relation to testing for the Covid-19 virus for social workers, and access to PPE – as essential workers.

Before the pandemic, we had been raising with the deputy minister for social services, Social Care Wales, Welsh Local Government Association, ADSS Cymru and workforce leads in Welsh Government, our deep concerns over the capacity and resilience of the social work workforce (based on our 2018 working conditions research) especially in relation to:

  • recruitment and retention
  • presenteeism
  • sickness levels
  • attrition rates for post qualifying learning
  • falling numbers choosing to enter the profession
  • workforce wellbeing
  • the social work demographic – overwhelmingly women with an average age of 46 years

The current pandemic and the need to ensure we have enough social workers to continue to provide essential services to the most vulnerable citizens in Wales, is of huge concern. Social work was under immense pressure before the crisis and many staff will be exposed to the virus through direct contact in their work, they may need to self-isolate and because of the demographic, many female social workers will have caring responsibilities either side of the age spectrum.

Social workers are afraid that they will become infected or be carriers, they may infect their loved and of course, they do not want to infect the vulnerable children and families they support.

We understand that the new Emergency Corona Act will allow for ‘retired’ social workers to be returned to the Register and for social work students to be fast tracked into qualification – both scenarios we fully support, although from my discussions with Social Care Wales, this won’t be the case for students in Wales.

We would like assurances that:

  • Social workers have immediate access to the appropriate personal protection equipment needed to undertake their essential roles, guidance and training in when to use, how to use and safely dispose of the equipment and continuity of supply
  • Access to testing for the virus and anti-bodies will be made immediately available, to social workers in direct contact with people needing care and support

We are also concerned that the Emergency Corona Act will create changes to the duties to assess and meet need under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014, along with changes to the Mental Health Act which will create human rights challenges. We wrote to Parliamentarians to signal our concerns, as the Bill passed through the commons.

We are doing, and will continue to do, all that we can to support and care for the profession during unprecedented times and look to work in collaboration and partnership with Welsh Assembly Government and sector leads, to ensure that we safeguard the most vulnerable citizens in Wales.

Kind regards

 

Allison Hulmes

National Director for Wales