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This week in Westminster - Friday 16 July 2021

Kerri Prince, BASW UK’s Public and Political Affairs Lead provides an update

Just a week away from the House of Commons going into their summer recess, we would normally expect to see parliamentary business slow down. A few Bills that wouldn’t attract much controversy, and some general debates which do not bind the Government to do anything. We’d expect to see the equivalent of teachers rolling out TV sets to show a film, winding down for the year. Instead, the Government are ramping up parliamentary business and have crammed as much as they could justify ahead of the 6-week break.

This week the Second Reading of the Health and Care Bill took place. This is a general debate on the Bill in which MPs can speak in favour or against the Bill, and it ends in a vote of MPs to decide whether the Bill progresses to the next stage. Due to it being a Government Bill, and the Government having a big majority, it was not surprising that the Bill passed. When there is legislation in Parliament that directly impacts the work that social workers do, we attempt to influence and inform parliamentarians about what this means for social work. On this occasion, Daniel Zeichner MP raised BASW England’s concerns about the proposals around discharge to assess, and we will be considering how we can best influence the details of the legislation when it goes to Committee Stage in September.

The Commons also passed secondary legislation that makes vaccinations in health and care settings mandatory. BASW England carried out a survey earlier this year to find out what it is that members thought of the proposals, and pledged to follow closely the Government’s plans around the implementation of the policy and report back to members when it becomes clear what the implications would be for social workers.

Next week, Parliamentary activity continues to plough ahead at full speed. On Monday and Tuesday, the Second Reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill will take place. Whilst many of the issues in the Bill that would directly impact social workers such as age assessments for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are yet to receive detailed plans, it is important that the voice of social workers is raised before the regulations are published.

There are also rumours that the Government are set to (finally!) publish their plans for the future of social care. Whether this means a series of bullet points, or a 200 page document with detailed proposals, we will see when it is published. Social care reform requires ambitious and strong leadership, as it will come at a high financial cost that many Governments will not want to commit to.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Social Work had another oral evidence session this week, for the inquiry looking at new models of children’s social work chaired by David Simmonds MP. You can watch all sessions that have taken place so far on BASW’s YouTube page.

The debate over Universal Credit has ramped up, with more organisations and politicians coming out to criticise the Government’s planned £20 per week cut. BASW have used our voice to argue against the cut, saying that it would be detrimental to children and families.

Although the UK Parliament will be closed for 6 weeks, politics will not stop. We will continue to hear about Government plans, politicians will be on the news and in the papers, and the endless back and forth about how the country is being run will return to a formal environment when Parliament returns on the 6th September.