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Blog: Social work needs to be at the heart of any national solution to rising child poverty in England

As social workers we will often see, first-hand, what poverty can do to children and their families

By BASW England Professional Officer Gavin Moorghen

Child poverty has been growing across the country and is predicted to increase from 4 million to 5 million by 2024.

As social workers we will often see, first-hand, what poverty can do to children and their families. It means greater hunger, poor health, lower expectations in education and employment and a higher chance of criminality. The damage caused in childhood often survives into adulthood, by which time reversing that it becomes much harder.

The dual impact of poverty and Covid-19 means vulnerable children are now at greater risk of harm. We can already see higher rates of domestic violence in households where children live. We also know that children are likely to be living with a growing number of parents with mental health and substance misuse issues, which have both been on the rise since the first lockdown in March.

There is now a toxic blend of rapidly increasing poverty coupled with the backdrop of a further lockdown which has already resulted in a lowering of income and a rise in unemployment. This may well turn the child poverty crisis into a national emergency much sooner than predicted - unless there is urgent and sustainable investment.

Social workers are essential to safeguarding the growing number of children who are growing up in poverty. Despite this, social work in England was at the bottom of the pile when it came to the provision of protective equipment and national guidance.

The failure to position social workers as first responders to the children affected by the crisis shows how little recognition there is for the value social work brings during disasters – and represents a disservice to the children and families we work with.

We want to hear social workers’ experiences and perspectives on child food poverty in England

Last week, BASW England hosted an online event where social workers across the country came together and expressed a collective sense of betrayal for the children and families whose human right to food is being denied.

There was a clear message that social work should be at the heart of any national solution – and we invite social workers across England to join us in our work around this issue.

We now are planning a three-point action plan between regional representatives and our England children and families social work group:

1. We must lobby government, local MPs and councillors, and local authorities for rapid change.    

2. We need to develop our own skills to be more poverty aware and nutrition aware.

3. We must build a coalition of partners to make the above a reality.

We want to know what you want to see as part of the action plan and our wider response as a profession. Please send over your suggestions to or tweet @MoorghenGavin.

BASW England’s next children and families social work group roundtable event will be looking specifically at how Covid-19 has affected child safeguarding

Share experiences, build your CPD and let us know what BASW can do for children and families social work in England – join us at the BASW England Committee on 13 November to consider possible solutions to the challenges for children and families social work, both during and beyond Covid-19. This event is open to all members and we are particularly keen to hear from practitioners and managers from the frontline.

Find out more and book your place