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This Week in Westminster - Friday 18 June 2021

Kerri Prince, BASW Public and Political Affairs Lead, provides an update from Westminster

Westminster politics is stunned this morning as people interested in parliamentary by-elections wake up to find that the Liberal Democrats have crushed the Conservatives in Chesham and Amersham, overturning what was a huge Conservative majority. There had been nervous whispers from Conservative activists on the ground that the Lib Dems could narrowly win the seat – but an overwhelming victory was not predicted by anyone.

So what does this mean for social work? Not much on the face of it. But parliamentary by-elections – especially where the governing party is losing what they consider to be a stronghold – can lead to some kneejerk reactions in policy and decision making. With the Conservatives improved performance in the North of England and the ‘red wall’ at the 2019 General Election, but losing safe seats in the South – this adds to the view that we are witnessing a realignment of the electorate.

Northern Ireland

It was announced yesterday that Edwin Poots has resigned as Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland’s largest political party, after just 21 days in post.

Mr Poots’ resignation followed a revolt by the DUP’s NI Assembly and Westminster teams following his decision to push ahead with the nomination of Paul Givan as First Minister against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of the party’s elected representatives. The move came hours after Mr Poots agreed a controversial deal with Sinn Féin and the UK Government that would see legislation introduced at Westminster to implement the Irish language commitments laid out in the 2020 New Decade New Approach agreement, should similar legislation not be passed at Stormont by October. Though intended to ensure the stability of the NI Executive, the outcome of the agreement on Irish language legislation now threatens its existence.

If First Minister Givan resigns, the Executive will collapse and cannot be reconstituted until the new DUP Leader—who hasn’t yet been chosen—nominates a new First Minister. Failure to nominate could lead to the Secretary of State calling an early election in autumn. If, following an election the DUP returns as the largest party and refuses to nominate a First Minister, or if it returns as the largest Unionist party, but not the largest party overall, and fails to nominate to the Deputy First Minister post, suspension of the devolved institutions and introduction of direct rule would be the likely outcome.

EU Settlement Scheme

The EU Settlement Scheme closes on 30th June, and it is essential that we all talk to our friends, colleagues, and people we encounter through our work that they register with the scheme if it applies to them. This week BASW CEO Ruth Allen wrote a blog on the issue, highlighting the need to extend the deadline and provide a more supportive environment for those coming forward to use the scheme.

APPG for Social Work

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Social Work, chaired by David Simmonds MP and Barbara Keeley MP - which BASW UK provides secretariat support for - has launched two inquiries that are taking place over the summer. The first is on the integration of social care with the NHS; the second is on new models of children’s social work. These inquiries will result in reports sent to the Department for Health and Social Care and the Department of Education respectively.

Overseas Aid

BASW UK has also written to the Foreign Secretary on overseas aid, saying that cutting overseas aid at such a crisis point for humanity is a mistake and will make the journey to pandemic recovery even more difficult for the world’s poorest.

'SAGE would be strengthened enormously by input from social work'

Last week, Labour MP Barbara Keeley questioned Matt Hancock during an oral evidence session about Coronavirus and the Government’s response to the pandemic. Barbara raised the issue that there are no social worker advisors on SAGE and quoted BASW’s Chief Executive Ruth Allen saying “SAGE would be strengthened enormously by input from social work, and it is shocking that we have none.” Watch this space…