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Update from SWU / BASW Austerity Action Group

The group is funded by the Social Workers Union

We have had discussions around the limitations of virtual meetings, online campaigning, and also maintaining interactions, highlighting the positives of user-led community groups emerging from the pandemic, interacting virtually and through social media. 

It's important also to acknowledge the impact of austerity and inequalities compounded by the pandemic upon many service users who have no access to internet, Wi-Fi, laptops, or mobile phones. 

The pandemic has also led to the exclusion of people who don't cope well with online resources, have no experience or training in technology or find that too much online activity triggers anxieties and mental health issues. 

The AAG encourages professionals to highlight inequalities through rights-based practice.

Difficult and isolating times for people with lived experiences can often alleviated to a degree by providing their much-valued input and personal contributions to groups such as the AAG. 

This however is made more difficult by the complexities of groups making payments to people with lived experience who contribute their time and knowledge to organisations. 

The AAG value the input of our members from the survivor and service-user background, and it saddens and frustrates us to be facing difficulties in providing remuneration, as making such payments can hinder receipt of benefits which are often means tested, as well as causing tax-related issues for those in employment.  The AAG is presently exploring advice in relation to making payments to service users in ways that do not jeopardise their benefits or salaries.  

The AAG acknowledges and supports the good work of Marcus Rashford whose high profile has successfully highlighted issues of food poverty and inequality.  We note with interest that the "National Food Strategy Organisation" linked to Marcus Rashford does not appear to include any service-users or social work representatives on its lengthy list of steering group members.  The AAG plan to write to the organisation to request who is providing the view of those with lived experiences and social work.

Back in April the AAG wrote an open letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, highlighting the desperate need for proper funding of social care; a review of the tax and benefit system to ensure that it works fairly for all; and reversal of the systematic destruction of local authority services.  AAG feel that the next step is to correspond again with additional input from survivor service users.

Shelter have provided a Template Letter to send to rental agents and landlords who state "no DSS".  A law change in July 2020 makes No DSS policies unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.  The link to the Shelter template can be found here

If you'd like to be involved in the Austerity Action Group or have any comments or questions, please contact carol.reid@swu-union.org.uk