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BASW CEO Ruth Allen responds to results of BASW member survey

Ruth Allen discusses the results of the recent BASW member survey - including where members think BASW is doing well, areas for improvement, and a series of actions and commitments from BASW in response to the feedback.

Dear Members,

We need to know that BASW is still working well for you – perhaps improving – throughout these extraordinary times. And we need to know what we could do better.

Thank you to the 353 members who completed our survey about how BASW has changed the ways it works during the pandemic - and what we should do in the coming months.

Below is a brief report here on the survey findings - and how we will use this feedback to inform how we work in coming months.

We want to hear from you! If you want to provide further feedback on how you think BASW is doing during Covid, please drop us a line through the contact form on the website, or give us a ring.

Best wishes and take care,

Ruth Allen - Chief Executive, BASW

Summary of member survey results

Overall members expressed a good level of satisfaction with how BASW is doing with very few negative responses. The free text comments included some lovely positive experiences of BASW during this time and also some important concerns and asks of BASW.

All comments provide learning points, and we will do our best to address all of them.

It is interesting that quite a large minority of respondents answered ‘neither agree nor disagree’ for some questions. This suggests that we need to keep reaching out to ensure all members are up to date with our activities - so you can make a judgement about how well we are doing!

Your free text contributions in the last two questions – what you are missing and any other comments – provided some rich insights. If it were possible to sum up the main feeling in these it would be that members are missing people-to-people contact. This is no surprise and completely understandable.

While BASW must operate to a health and safety first priority for the foreseeable future, we will do all we can to think creatively and safely to enable people to people contact when we can, and to make the most of what we can offer in the meantime.

We are also aware that many social workers need to be back in workplaces and/or working in people’s homes and other establishments. We advocate that social workers should be able to work from home as much as possible and should have the best safety provisions and protection at work.  Social work is an essential key service and much of it requires person-to-person contact.

BASW’s responsibility and ethical imperative is to not be adding to the pool of risk by facilitating activities that can reasonably be done without travel and face-to-face meetings.  

Actions following the survey

  • We will continue to keep our offices shut for all but critical purposes for the time being, and we will keep this under review
  • We will make sure members know our plans around COVID-19 and any changes in good time
  • Staff will continue to work from home, by telephone and online
  • Our advice and representation service will continue to be offered by telephone or online only. Our staff there have had very good success in working virtually in both employment and regulatory representation - and will actively advocate the benefit of this on your behalf where needed
  • We will not be planning any routine face-to-face meetings or events for staff or members
  • We will continue to develop our online offer and help more members make the most of it
  • We will come back to find out member views again in a few months’ time.
  • We will review the situation monthly in the COVID-19 committee (chaired by the BASW Chair) - and will take account of member feedback, national and local guidance in each part of the UK, and the overall state of the pandemic.

Responses to the survey by question

(N.B. All questions were in the form of statements with Agree, Somewhat Agree, Neither Agree nor Disagree, Somewhat disagree and Disagree’ options, with free text comment boxes)

Q1) BASW has maintained the quality of usual services during COVID-19

Most respondents, 75%, thought BASW had maintained the quality of our services during the pandemic either fully (the majority) or somewhat. 22% neither agreed or disagreed, and just 3% disagreed full or somewhat.

Positive free text comments highlighted staff responsiveness to their needs, good webinars and CPD, great communication and regular updates, better accessibility now we are working exclusively online and a good media profile. One member wrote:

“BASW have been amazing since beginning of pandemic. Phones are answered speedily and staff are friendly, helpful and polite.  I have made use of the new ‘New Professional Support Service. What a great idea and so very useful and indeed supportive. I have also made good use of relevant webinars which has increased my CPD.”

And another said:

“I have engaged more with BASW since Covid19 struck.”

A smaller number of critical comments thought BASW could be more ‘visible’ and needed to really ‘keep in touch’ with what is happening on the ground for social workers. There was also a view that resources and communications need to make sure they are tailored to all the nations of the UK.

Q2) BASW has provided useful information and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic

86% of respondents thought that BASW has achieved this fully or to some degree, and again only 3% disagreed. Comments highlighted the volume and relevance of the resources and the regularity of updates. A few people commented there may be too many updates, but others commented three per week was just right and enjoyed the increase in communications. Country-specific resources such as the SASW bulletin got a positive mention. There were helpful suggestions about how bulletins and updates could be improved.

There were a few comments about the importance of BASW promoting positive messages, not dwelling on the negative, to help maintain morale. This is an important message about balance.

Q3) BASW has developed useful new services and activities during COVID-19

61% of respondents agreed with this statement, 34% said they didn’t know either way, and 6% disagreed.

The majority of comments pointed out a range of positive developments that members had noticed and in many cases used such as:

  • the Professional Support Service (PSS a coaching based offer of support online)
  • the expansion of webinars
  • ongoing virtual/online peer spaces such as Branches and forums continuing to be very active in new ways online
  • enhanced support for students and university outreach
  • the launch of the Working Conditions and Wellbeing ‘toolkit’
  • mentoring and support spaces
  • communities of practice
  • the Black Lives Matter web pages and resources
  • the publication of articles by social workers through PSW magazine in print and online

There were a few important comments from members who are too fatigued to search out what new opportunities BASW is offering and a wish for resources and opportunities more focused on regions which seem less well served (e.g. region with no branch or forum).

Q4) BASW should reopen offices for socially distanced meetings or events for members before February 2021

Currently BASW’s offices are closed for all but the most business critical and practical purposes (for example, maintaining the offices and technical work on the IT system). No staff or member meetings are being held face to face, staff are working from home and none are routinely based in offices.

The date of February 2021 for possible reopening was set back in May 2020 when we adopted a three phase approach that we knew was contingent on the uncertain progress of the pandemic. The phases were:

  • 1) initial lockdown/restrictions up to end of September 2020
  • 2) depending on level of control of virus, possible reopening of some offices and some limited staff travel for meetings externally, up to end of January 2021
  • 3) possible reopening of offices more fully for staff and members and return to some face to face events and meetings from February onwards.  The plan was a structure around which to take decisions, including needing to extend the deadlines.

The survey went out before the recent surge in positive cases and before new restrictions were imposed across all four nations of the UK. Government advice from all UK governments is again now to work from home where possible and there are extensive ‘lockdown’ type restrictions in many areas. The opportunity to safely reopen offices even in limited ways, to facilitate staff or member travel and face to face contact now seems considerably further away than in mid-September, with concerns rising within services and among public health officials about seasonal infection risks rising and pressures on services.

This statement invoked rather mixed views. The minority, 22%, agreed or somewhat agreed with this statement (that offices should reopen), 36% didn’t say either way and 42% disagreed or somewhat disagreed (they thought BASW should not reopen offices).

Members helpfully expressed their diversity of experiences and views in comments. Most were in favour of putting risk assessment and safety first. Comments included:

“People need to use their virus ‘footprint’ for families and friends. If we can act as virus circuit breakers and stay at home, we should.”

Others appreciated BASW providing good quality online connectivity to enable safe meeting and also the time and safety benefits of not travelling one comment being that BASW’s “remote service during the period has been outstanding”

There were several comments about the importance of getting back to human to human contact when we can and that we should be positive about the importance of this.

Q5) BASW online member meetings work well and are valuable for me

53% of respondents didn’t know either way about this statement, but 41% positively agreed and only 4% disagreed. Some comments expressed satisfaction at the accessibility of online events and meetings, such as branches, including comments from some that they had engaged for the first time in BASW member meetings because of the accessible online platform.

Others were definitely missing face-to-face contact and many had not used the online meetings offered by BASW.

This question has some overlaps with the next one:

Q6) BASW online learning and professional interest events work well and are valuable to me

BASW has seen an over 100% increase in uptake of professional development events since moving online. The majority of respondents, 61%, either agreed or somewhat agreed with this statement and only 6% disagreed.

One respondent summed up one theme in the feedback in saying: “I find it much easier to attend meetings and events online without having to travel”. But as someone else put it, people are getting “zoomed out”.

There was also useful feedback - both positive and critical - of content and how easy it is to get online for webinars and online presentations. For some, learning online has been positive and better than expected. For others, its frustrating and in particular a shame not to be with colleagues and discussing in real life.  Nonetheless, the overall feedback is encouraging – and informative about what quality and content people expect, as well as what works well.

The feedback underscores the importance of planning for some face-to-face learning when it becomes possible again - and continuing to make online platforms more engaging and interesting for for now and for the longer term. We will need to evaluate what new ways of doing things we want to keep or adapt after the pandemic, as well as catching up on we have missed.

Q7) I have the technology I need to make the most of BASW’s online activities

Most people, 85%, said they had the technology they need – in full or somewhat.  Ensuring we reach out to members so they can use their technology to the full on BASW activities and making it as attractive and comfortable as possible seems to be the key issue, rather than members not having suitable technology.