A year in BASW UK public affairs
By Kerri Prince, BASW UK Public and Political Affairs Lead
With more organisations and individuals clamouring for influence in Westminster than ever before, carving out the unique voice and perspective of BASW and our members has been a key priority for our public affairs.
Since I joined BASW a year ago, I have had the privilege to work with immensely talented and knowledgeable members and staff who share a passion to make the social work voice louder and heard. Without the expertise and hard work of colleagues and members in BASW and SWU, our impact would certainly have been lesser. In public affairs, we take the information and policy that others in the organisation have been working on and turn that into easily digestible arguments that decision-makers can understand and use when developed legislation and UK-level policy.
A key part of what we have been working on is making BASW a household name in the UK Parliament. To do this, we have had to build meaningful relationships with parliamentarians. It is not enough to send out briefings and statements – we need MPs and Lords to take some form of action with it. Up until today, we have had meaningful engagement with more than 50 MPs and Peers, from 6 different political parties in the UK. This means that more than 50 MPs have: put down written parliamentary questions for us; taken part in an APPG for Social Work inquiry; spoken about us during a parliamentary debate; written to us; had a meeting with us; tweeted about us and our activity; or corresponded with us on an issue that we had a position on. These MPs included Government Ministers and Opposition frontbenchers who all have a key role in influencing the policy developed by their parties.
Spreading BASW’s message
The BASW membership cares very passionately about a whole range of issues, but with limited capacity we cannot fight every battle, and we need to prioritise what we take on. Over the past year, we have considered where BASW’s voice would be most effective, and we briefed parliamentarians on:
- Nationality and Borders Bill
- Care Home Visitation in England
- Spending Review
- Dementia Action Week
- Winterbourne View House
- Discharge to Assess
- Social Care Reform
- World Social Work Day 2021
- Spending Review
- Social care reform
- Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill
- Health and Social Care Levy
- Human Rights
- And more
We also have submitted several pieces of evidence to Select Committees, Bill Committees, and All-Party Parliamentary Groups on:
Working conditions and burnout
- Joint Committee on Human Rights COVID-19 Inquiry
- Universal Credit and poverty
- Nationality and Borders Bill
- Health and Care Bill
- Independent Human Rights Act Review
All-Party Parliamentary Group for Social Work
Part of our public affairs and parliamentary engagement work is in the form of supporting the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Social Work, which is a cross-party special interest group led by parliamentarians. Earlier this year, David Simmonds MP and Barbara Keeley MP agreed to be co-chairs of the group. BASW UK act as the secretariat for the group, which means that we provide the administrative and organisational support, but the APPG belongs to the co-chairs. In just six months, the APPG has:
- Launched an inquiry into chidren’s social work models
- Launched an inquiry into integration of health and social care
- Started the process of conducting a short inquiry into the experiences of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
Assaults on social workers
We launched a petition alongside the Social Workers Union to get an idea of the strength of feeling for campaigning to Parliament to make it an additional offence to assault social workers. This received more than 13,000 signatures, delivered a response from the Government on their position, and forged links with the Department for Education to look at how we can ensure social workers are better protected at work.
A key tool that UK Members of Parliament have is posing written questions to Ministers, which have to be answered. We have utilised this tool well and worked with parliamentarians to secure answers and information on matters such as asylum policy, and background information to feed into BASW England’s ‘Homes not Hospitals’ campaign.
England 2021 Local Elections
In May this year, there were elections in Wales, Scotland and England. As part or our aim to engage with politicians in England, building relationships with candidates is key.
We put out a short questionnaire to candidates for combined authority Mayoral roles in England. We had a good response rate, and we hosted their responses on our website. Two candidates who responded to us were not incumbents, but went on to unexpectedly win their elections. Developing these relationships will be a priority.
Letters to parliamentarians
One of the key ways that we share our thoughts with UK Ministers and influential parliamentarians, is through writing letters as these normally are responded to. Over the past year, we have written letters to:
- Baroness Williams on the Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill
- The Children’s Minister about free school meals
- Immigration Minister on immigration and homelessness
- The Home Office on the deportation of rough sleepers
- The Department for Work and Pensions on Universal Credit
- The Health and Social Care Select Committee Chair on Learning Disabilities and Autism
- Chair of the APPG for the Loan Charge about SWES (Social Work Employment Service)
- The Home Secretary on the New Plan for Immigration
- The Shadow Home Secretary on assaults on social workers
- The Care Minister about BASW England’s ‘Home not Hospitals’ campaign
- The Foreign Secretary on overseas aid
- The Home Secretary on the EU Settlement Scheme
- And many more
BASW UK will continue to make sure that we representing the voices of our members at the highest levels of Government, and that the social worker message is heard.