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BASW Cymru response to the Chancellor of Exchequer’s spending review

The spending review announced yesterday is set against the context of a continuing global pandemic, the possibility of a ‘no deal Brexit’ as the transition period nears its end and with official forecasts predicting the worse economic decline for 300 years!

Social workers know only too well the on-going human cost which 10 years of austerity policies inflicted on those they support. The gaps between the richest and poorest in society widened during this time and the Covid-19 pandemic has extended this gap even further and created levels of need yet to be revealed.

During this pandemic, social workers, as essential workers have worked tirelessly to maintain essential services and support. Their endeavours have gone largely unnoticed at a time when they have been working from home undertaking complex safeguarding duties, often without adequate space and facilities, trying to balance their own children’s home-schooling needs and other caring responsibilities at the same time. Politicians stood on doorsteps and clapped for essential workers, eventually acknowledging the vital contributions made by social work staff.

The spending review provides details of the Wales budget for 2021/22 and the Welsh Government Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans issued this stark response, saying that she ‘is deeply concerned that promises have been broken and the wrong choices made’.

So where will this leave social workers in relation to public sector pay? For the last 20 years we have seen an incremental and pernicious erosion of social workers pay and conditions, highlighted most clearly in BASW/SWU’s Professional Working Conditions research undertaken in 2017/18/19.

Clapping for essential social workers is cold comfort when they are unlikely to see a pay increase which corresponds to that being offered to health workers. This at a time when Wales is implementing an integrated workforce strategy, developed around parity of esteem and opportunity with wellbeing of the workforce at its heart.

 It is hard to see how social workers will be convinced to engage in the strategy when a primary way of evidencing parity, value and equality of opportunity is through pay reward.

BASW Cymru has developed our election 2021 Manifesto and in it we call for an independent review of social work in Wales, to include pay and working conditions. This must be the priority of the next Welsh Government if we are to have a profession which has sufficient numbers, is well trained, skilled, motivated and supported to able to meet the substantial challenges of the next ten years.

Allison Hulmes

National Director for Wales

BASW Cymru