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BASW Chair Gerry Nosowska shares thanks, reflections and priorities for the year ahead

Read the Chair’s speech to BASW UK Annual General Meeting 2020

BASW is 50 years old.

I wonder if 50 years ago any of our members imagined an Annual General Meeting with the Chair sitting on her floor in Devon talking to 150 people in their homes, workplaces, gardens, on their phones around the UK.

Maybe we couldn’t even imagine it a year ago.

Change is a constant in social work. But there are other constants too. BASW has been a constant for 50 years. I want to celebrate three reasons for this.

Firstly the people. BASW has had members for 50 years, some people have been members that long. I’ve already thanked some members in particular roles. But now I want to thank each of you for being part of BASW and making this association what it is.

I also want to thank our staff – some of whom are managing our tech right now, or tweeting, or making notes for Professional Social Work magazine. And those who aren’t here because they are out delivering, planning, on phones to members, advising, or maybe even resting after six of the hardest months BASW has faced.

And I want to thank another group of people today - our personal supports; partners, parents, children, family, friends, pets (some of whom are basically people), who keep us social workers going.

A second constant is our ethics. These underpin all BASW is and does for all our 50 years. If you look at the Annual Report you will find human rights, social justice and professional integrity woven through it, and see our social work ethics in action.

And the third constant is our optimism. Throughout these 50 years, and still, social workers come together in BASW to work for a better society and a better world. We take heart from the work of the past, the people around us now and the potential for the future.

Our heart has been tested in the last six months. In BASW we were able to respond to Covid because of our proven belief that social work can make a difference. And we responded ethically and together.

Read our report to members to see the strength of our response.

Covid-19 has highlighted the gross inequality in our country and our world. Recent events have rightly reignited challenges to that inequality and oppression, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

BASW has its own work to do to truly be an anti-oppressive and anti-racist organisation. Last year we committed to an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy and plan. This set out minimum standards starting with us increasing visible Council diversity and setting up an Advisory Group of members to advocate directly to Council. These are the minimum standards:

  • One quarter (4) of Council members are from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic groups
  • Half (8) of Council members identify as female
  • One quarter (4) of Council members currently work in direct social work practice
  • One eighth (2) of Council members are aged 35 and under

I can report that Council of June 2019 just met three of these but not the fourth standard. Council today, of 15th September 2020, exceeds all of these standards.

The Advisory Group is in place providing recommendations on increased representation, supporting social workers and challenging oppression across social work. The Group will support Council to set transformation standards for BASW including to better understand and increase diversity in committees and groups and in our workforce, to review our language and processes, and to embed anti-oppressive practice in our activities.

BASW must be a place where all social workers feel welcome. It’s powerful hearing the voices of members calling for us to do better and this is what makes BASW strong. I commit to doing all in my power to work for BASW to be a truly anti-oppressive and anti-racist organisation, to build on the work and to achieve the promise of the last 50 years.

I ask you to do the same. That would be the best birthday present we could give this association.

Happy 50th BASW.