Skip to main content

BASW’s necessities for Spending Review 2020

The five key requirements to enhance and future proof social work services, and improve the lives of people in need of them

Today the Government issued the Spending Review 2020.

BASW has outlined five key requirements to enhance and future proof social work services, and improve the lives of people in need of them.

We will also soon be releasing a special episode of its Let’s Talk Social Work podcast analysing the impact of the Government’s Spending Review for social workers, and the families and individuals who use social work services.

BASW five-point action plan 

We will continue to push for these important issues to be addressed, to support social workers and improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society in these uncertain times.

BASW are calling for…

  1. Specific measures to tackle child and family poverty, especially food poverty
  2. Immediate investment in social work services for adults, children and families
  3. Funding to progress adult social care reform and sustainability
  4. Increased ringfenced funding for preventive, community mental health support
  5. No return to austerity and fair pay for low paid staff

Top of the list is a commitment we are seeking from this Government to take specific measures to tackle child poverty, especially food poverty.

Child hunger has taken the headlines several times over the course of the pandemic, due to the Government repeatedly refusing to provide free school meals for those children that are eligible during school breaks.

Children in poverty are more likely to be the subject of child safeguarding investigations and more likely to be received into care. Most parents in poverty do their job of parenting well, but for those who are struggling due to a variety of reasons, poverty makes the task of parenting much harder.

The full plan is informed by BASW’s 2020 manifesto (link) and 2025 Vision (link) and is as follows:

1. Specific measures to tackle child and family poverty, especially food poverty

Child hunger has taken the headlines several times over the course of the pandemic, due to the Government refusing to provide free school meals for those children that are eligible during school breaks.

Children in poverty are more likely to be the subject of child safeguarding investigations and more likely to be received into care. Most parents in poverty do their job of parenting well, but for those who are struggling because of other issues poverty makes the task of parenting much, much harder.

Many people are losing their jobs or facing months of furlough on reduced wages, which leads to a severe reduction in household income forcing families to choose between heating and eating. We believe a primary function of any Government is ensuring that children are fed to enable them to flourish and be both physically and mentally well. Many people are discovering for the first time how inadequate the welfare ‘safety net’ really is.

Social workers will see first-hand what poverty can do to children and their families, and the detrimental impact that not eating properly can have.

2, Immediate investment in social work services for adults, children and families

Investment in preventive services prevents larger bills later. Targeted services to individuals and groups who are ‘at risk’ - whether delivered through local government, the voluntary sector or other agencies reduce costs further down the line. Cutting preventive services is a false economy. But prevention is not just about saving money, it is also about ethics - giving the best possible services to service users at the earliest opportunity and reducing the drift to statutory intervention.

Social workers have been on the frontline this year, witnessing firsthand how a pandemic is affecting those most in need of additional support. Social work – never an easy task – has been made much harder by Covid. More than ever before, the heroic work and commitment of social care workers must be recognised and the workforce needs to be fully staffed and supported with adequate resources.

This is an opportunity for the Government to show that they value all health and key workers beyond ‘a clap for carers’ on doorsteps, allocating the resources needed to address the impact of  years of underfunding that has been highlighted during this pandemic. The repercussions of coronavirus will mean that more people will be needing additional physical and mental health care, and the budgets must be there to ensure that everybody who needs support can receive it.

3. Funding to progress adult social care reform and sustainability

A long-term financially sustainable solution to providing adequate and appropriate Adult Social Care has been talked about by governments for twenty years. Covid has shown just how much society needs adequate social care and how under-resourced it is. The Prime Minister has promised to ‘fix social care once and for all’. Will this spending review address this need, or once more kick the can down the road?

4. Increased ringfenced funding for preventive, community mental health support

There has been much talk of the impact that Covid is having on mental health, with nearly a year of social isolation inevitably leading more people to seek services than ever before. Mass job losses, reduced physical contact with loved ones and restrictions on enjoyable parts of life will have had a huge impact on people’s wellbeing and how they respond to difficult circumstances.

In Northern Ireland in particular, there are already disproportionate levels of mental health difficulties from the combined result of decades of political conflict and many years of underfunded services. It is imperative that the Northern Ireland block grant for 2021-22 provides addition funding to fully resources the Northern Ireland Department of Health 10-year Mental Health Strategy.

Investment in preventive services prevents larger bills later. Targeted services to individuals and groups who are ‘at risk’ - whether delivered through local government, the voluntary sector or other agencies reduce costs further down the line. Cutting preventive services is a false economy. But prevention is not just about saving money, it is also about ethics - giving the best possible services to service users at the earliest opportunity and reducing the drift to statutory intervention.

The mental health impact of the pandemic will be long-lasting and will need ongoing support. With more lockdowns expected and a continuation of the limitations that have been placed on our lives due to Covid, we cannot afford to not give mental health services the funding and support that they need in order for them to support those most in need.

5. No return to austerity and fair pay for low paid staff

It is vital that the government does not in any way, shape or form retreat to austerity measures. While promises have been made this will not happen, they contrast with reports suggesting reduced local budgets and public sector pay caps.

It must be remembered that health and social care workers – across public and private sectors – have been at the sharp end of picking up the pieces from a decade of austerity, which the PM promised last year he would end.

BASW members will know all too well the impact of severely underfunded local authorities on delivery of statutory and non-statutory support services, as well as the impact on our colleagues in social care who are often underpaid and overworked.

During the statement tomorrow we will be looking for the many promises of ending austerity to be delivered upon, specifically through enhanced support for local authorities to enable them to deliver the services to all those in need.

We also want to see all low paid health and care staff recognized by Government with a commitment to fair pay for this sector, for their vital efforts in combating Covid infections.

A Spending review explainer…

The Government sets a budget on all its financial commitments (e.g. health, education) and the income it receives from taxes and other sources.

The current 2020 UK Spending Review will end on 25th November when the Chancellor Rishi Sunak gives a statement to the House of Commons in which he will announce a new set of departmental budgets for the next financial year. This was originally intended to be a three-year review, but it was limited to be just one financial year due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The Chancellor has said that this spending review will prioritise the response to Covid and a focus on jobs.

The key downside of only delivering budgets for one year is that it fails to give financial certainty in an uncertain time, harming the ability for public service leadership to plan and fund services long-term.

There are some areas that already have funding commitments, such as NHS England having received their day-to-day funding settlement up until 2024, and school spending in England lasts up until 2023. This does not mean that more funding will not be allocated to these areas, but it will be on top of these already established commitments.

Devolved nations

The Barnett formula - a mechanism used by the Treasury in the UK to automatically calculate the amounts of expenditure allocated to the devolved nations in the UK – means that funding increases announced by the Chancellor in devolved policy areas will also be allocated to the nations.

Predictions

It is common for leaks or early announcements to emerge in the days running up to the Chancellor’s statement.

There was an announcement last week on an increase in the defence budget, for example, while reports circulate about a cap on public sector pay gap and a cut to foreign aid budgets. Whilst these are just rumours at this point, experience from previous years suggest they are likely to be accurate.

As these allocations are for the financial year 2021-2022, it remains to be seen how much Covid spending will be part of the announcements, and whether this would be grouped as part of core spending for any particular area, such a social care. or whether this will be additional budget ringfenced for relieving the pressure of Covid.