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Independent Review of Children's Social Care - Oversimplification of the role of social workers and negative government narrative of social worker engagement with children and families

Andy Gill, BASW England Chair and Maris Stratulis, BASW England National Director comment on the Sunday Times article

BASW England is disappointed to see the oversimplification of well-trodden debates in the recent Sunday Times article by Emily Dugan with Josh MacAlister (13th June 2021) which contrasts with the reality of our members.

The article does not well reflect the realities of social work practice and slides over the professional and ethical dilemmas that social workers manage every single day. It is essential that the Chair of the Review does not facilitate the undermining of the profession in the press.

The reductive rhetoric of social workers 'wading in', 'doing too much', and being unduly interventionist serves a particular blow to the profession, just as 'not doing enough' – particularly after a tragic outcome – can be equally as damaging to social work and to the families we work with.

The bigger picture is that in the last few years, compounded by the impact of COVID-19 and the chronic underfunding of local authority services, social workers have been working exceptionally hard with very little public recognition.

Social work with at-risk and marginalised families is a complex and highly skilled professional task that involves, amongst other things, multi-agency working, a collaborative approach, relationship-based practice and a commitment to social justice and human rights on an individual and societal level (IFSW, 2014).

We also work within the statutes and legislation that inform our duties and commitment to upholding the rights of children and their families. We are aware that this can cause the tensions within which we must work every day.

For example, social workers must carefully balance Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, 'the right to respect for private and family life', alongside the right for a child to be protected from harm (Article 19, UNCRC).

BASW has clearly referred to these nuances in our document 'A Vision for Social Work: Children and Families'.  Whilst we support more preventative social work and relationship-based practice, undermining the profession in this way is not the right starting point. Instead, real term investment, more time for social work practice and rights-based services must be the foundations for change.

The pandemic has provided challenging times for professionals and the increasing number of families in poverty, experiencing extreme hardship and need for support. This has led to innovative and creative working to ensure our main tasks – to promote the flourishing of our children and to protect them from suffering.

We are therefore disappointed but sadly not surprised that, once again, there is a lack of recognition of the demanding, highly-skilled, and often emotionally challenging work that social workers undertake.

BASW England has raised significant concerns about the Review of Children's Social Care, as well as the timing of the Review during a pandemic. We remain concerned that the  Case for Change will not provide the time for nuanced, practice and evidence-informed, methodologically sound and reflective approach in line with the BASW England 10 priorities for the Review of Children's Social Care

We also expect a better understanding of the tensions, principles, and values engrained within our social work practice and social work literature and that the voice of social workers is represented in the Review, which continues to be lacking.

Andy Gill BASW England Chair and Maris Stratulis, BASW England National Director.

Keep in touch with BASW England action and updates, how to get involved and find a hub of information on the review.