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25 May Senedd event - blog

Innovative and relationship-based social work – highlighting best practice in Wales.

25th May 2022

Hosted by BASW Cymru. Kindly sponsored by Jack Sargeant, MS.

BASW Cymru’s recent event was a huge success! It was great to see so many people attend the Yr Oriel, Senedd on 25th May 2022 and celebrate such excellence and innovation within the sector of social work in Wales. BASW Cymru were proud to host the event which highlighted and showcased the importance of innovative and relationship-based social work practice across Wales.

This event was kindly sponsored by Jack Sargeant, Member of Senedd who attended with his colleagues to show their support and gratitude to Social Workers across Wales.

 

Allison Hulmes, BASW Cymru National Director opened the event with a welcoming note with a sincere feeling of gratitude and celebration for all the work Social Workers do daily within Wales. We were all humbled by Allison’s words of support and encouragement for Social Workers across Wales.

Upon reflecting on this prosperous event Allison said ‘it was so great to be able to finally meet with our members face to face after 2 years of enforced separation and to realise that we were whole people and not just disembodied heads and shoulders! Our event was an opportunity for social workers to highlight to the Members of Senedd the fantastic, research-based practice they have been developing and promoting, despite a global pandemic and the pressures it put on our workforce as professionals, but also on them on a personal level too. It was a joy to feel the energy, passion, and pride they felt in sharing their work, and this was clearly communicated to our guests who included our Chief social care officer, our deputy minister for social services and cross-party members of the Senedd. We were pleased to be able to show a short clip from our heritage project film which captured the essence of social work ‘y Ffordd Gymraeg’ ‘the Welsh Way’. The film clip included powerful testimony from those who have led in forging a distinct Welsh social work identity such as our First Minister, Professor Charlotte Williams and Rhoda Emlyn-Jones. As always at these events, I am proud of our profession and the quiet transformation which social workers effect in the lives of those they support, daily.’

Julie Morgan, Deputy Minister for Social Services gracefully shared her experiences as a social worker in Wales. It could be argued that times were different then however, so many listened with empathy and compassion as they deeply connected with Julie’s various encounters with people overtime, many still buried deep down in her heart. To undertake social work practice without carrying the emotional burdens is rare. It is often these paramount experiences that strengthen the invisible thread which cannot be broken between social workers in Wales. The pride that exists in their work and passion which from this event was so clear to see. Observing through a humanitarian lens, these were giants amongst men, and it was an honour to be advocating that social work matters at this event. Many Members of Senedd were keen to learn more about social work excellence within Wales and understood that we are a profession that is in crisis and that their ongoing support is crucial. It is an exciting time for Wales with various Welsh Government strategies being launched to achieve a fairer, prosperous, and healthier Wales. There is no better time to build and grow alliances and we hope that this is the inception of valuing social work within Wales so we can work together to achieve those desired Welsh Government outcomes within the set timescales.

Julie’s stories of social work bought us all back to reminiscing about why we had entered the profession and continue to create change and empower others as social workers and humanitarians. It was both a pleasure and honour to have Julie speak at this event.

In addition to the celebration of excellence of social work in Wales, we also celebrated our NSC Chair, Neeta Baichar who has completed her term as the NSC Chair. Neeta will now be stepping into her new role as Vice- Chair of BASW at the BASW June 2022 AGM. We are all sad to be saying goodbye to her as she has supported the social work profession over the years and developed strong professional relationships with organisations across Wales. Neeta brings a unique insight and passion which ignites words into action, and we look forward to seeing a stronger Welsh voice within BASW senior leadership and across BASW UK.

 

Albert Heaney, Chief Social Care Officer for Wales was honoured with delivering a lovely speech for Neeta’s hard work and dedication to the social work profession, a lifetime achievement! Neeta described this part of the event as ‘the best kept secret’ as she had no idea! We have told her that we hope to keep her on her toes in her new role too! We are excited to see Neeta bring her talent to BASW UK and look forward to working with her in the future. Ruth Allen (CEO, BASW UK) also welcomed Neeta in her new role and thanked her for her continued support and dedication to BASW and the social work profession. Members of the BASW Cymru National Standing Committee showed their appreciation for Neeta throughout the night.

BASW Cymru showcased their short preview clip of their Heritage film. The captivating film is a journey through the development of a distinct Welsh social work identity. It covers the period from devolution to the present day and includes testimony from social workers who played key roles in shaping that identity. The audience showed great enthusiasm, and many commented how they look forward to seeing the full-length film later in the year.

It was both compelling and important to hear the continuing excellent work carried out by consultant social workers in the integrated family support service in Neath Port Talbot (NPT). This is the service which Rhoda Emlyn Jones poured such energy and passion into, a role in which she trained our director, Allison Hulmes. Rachel Scourfield, NPT Consultant Social Worker delivered an overview of the service.

Jan Rees, a Consultant Social Worker from NPT, spoke virtually about the wider role of consultant social worker’s in developing the workforce and the vital partnerships with research partners to ensure practice is evidence and research informed.

Meryl Williams (BASW Cymru Professional Officer) and Sian Wilton (BASW Cymru, Event Co-ordinator & National Administrator also now known as the lady in red, see below) were both delighted to see so many attend the event and finally have the opportunity to meet people who they had previously only ever communicated with online. This was a testament that good professional working relationships can be formed online and further solidified in person. Following the event, Meryl shared her views about and stressed the importance of social workers not struggling alone especially when there are services out there which offer effective support. Meryl said ‘meeting with Assembly Ministers reinforced the importance of meeting people face to face following a couple of years of virtual contacts. What a difference it made. It reminded me that while we as a profession have had to adjust to virtual working to a certain degree during the pandemic, that this is not the heart of social work. Social work is about relationships, it’s about strengthening relationships, and this can only be done effectively and holistically by seeing those we support in real life. Similarly, for us as social workers we need to ensure that we look after ourselves so we can continue to support the most vulnerable in our society. Don’t struggle alone. There is support, whether you’re a social worker or a social work student. Contact BASW Cymru’s Professional Support Service It’s important that we reach out for support to ensure we can continue to support those who are in crisis’.

Narinder Sidhu (BASW Cymru, Professional Officer) who recently came into post had the valuable opportunity to meet people face to face. Narinder said ‘I felt honoured to meet such enthusiastic and dedicated individuals. Social work matters and it was so refreshing to see people coming together wholeheartedly to celebrate and focus on the brilliance in social work which is happening across Wales everyday’. 

BASW Cymru continue to enable the progression of living experience being valued

in social work practice in many ways and this was a welcomed opportunity to showcase some of this too. Anna Collins and Fiona Macleod felt the event was a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about the project that they are involved in which consists of the development of a grass roots parent advocacy network supported by the West Glamorgan Safeguarding Board. This event was a fantastic networking opportunity for all, one which Anna and Fiona in particular, found to be a huge success for their parent advocacy project. Since the event, Fiona has been in touch with Albert Heaney and Julie Morgan to invite them to a café as well as gain support from Welsh Government for parent advocacy as pilot project in West Glamorgan with a view to rolling it out across Wales.

Anna said ‘parent cafes have started to grow and are gaining momentum these are parent led and professionally supported. Parent’s with living experience of statutory interventions actively involved in policy and practice at all levels is the aim’.

Fiona commented ’this was a fantastic opportunity to show those who have responsibilities, power and influence what parents supported by professional can achieve. We were heartened by the interest expressed by those who attended the event. PAN (Parent Advocacy Network) Parent Café, to experience the benefits of this parent-led, professionally supported initiative. The Parent Café is all about parents supporting parents, strengthening families, and instilling hope. PAN West Glamorgan is a regional project made up of parents and professionals with aspirations to amplify parent voices in the child protection arena. We aim for greater participation and partnership with parents in decision making, a rebalancing the current dynamic, and a more humane and compassionate experience for parents and families engaged in child protection and statutory social services. We developed a genuine bottom-up grassroots movement which is shaping the dialogue and direction of travel.  The First Minister made comment about the funding of parent advocacy on 22nd March, commenting that a new funding stream was to be made available, ‘to provide advocacy for families at risk of having their children taken into public care, to make sure that when those decisions are being made, the voice of the family is heard as powerfully as any professional involved in that decision’.

PAN has 3 main priorities:

  • To develop a direct Parent Peer Advocacy and Support Service (PPASS), delivered by parents with lived experience (trained, supported and employed) as parent peer advocates for parents at risk of having their children removed, or who have already had their children removed from their care,
  • To ensure a tailored and bespoke induction and training programme for PPASS staff,
  • To continue to develop PAN as a regional and national hub to recruit, nurture and engage parents; and to educate, inform and influence parents and professionals. The work of the Parent Café initiative comes under this umbrella as a means of supporting, strengthening and engaging parents and families who have experienced statutory social services interventions in their lives.

As a unique and innovative service, we would like the work and outcomes of the parent advocacy service to be underpinned by rigorous academic research and evaluation. We had discussion with Welsh Government at the beginning of May about the funding of a direct Parent Peer Advocacy and Support Service (PPASS).  We would like a centrally funded project over a 5 year period to gain adequate, longitudinal understanding of impact and outcomes. We hope that PAN and PPASS will provide a test bed and a model for other regions in Wales. We hope to hear news soon about future funding. BASW Cymru are helping us to forge the link between the voice of parents with lived experience directly to policy and practice in Wales. We are delighted that the Parent Advocacy Network in West Glamorgan is supported by BASW Cymru and we hope to continue this journey’.

The above also reiterates the importance of these events where valuable opportunities are created for individuals to network with the hope to support each other to achieve their shared objectives.

Both Anna and Fiona also felt that it was an amazing goal accomplished by BASW Cymru driving forward the campaign to have a Chief Officer for Social Care. We thank Anna and Fiona for continued support in the work we do. We could not achieve our goals without our valued members who give their precious time and energy voluntarily to drive these campaigns and shape the social work profession with us.

It was great to see Simon Howarth (Lecturer, University of Birmingham) at the event. Simon is undertaking research with Neath Port Talbot to develop a new short and accessible multi-agency child neglect assessment tool. This tool will be both evidence-based and inclusive of wider disadvantages, such as poverty.  As part of this research project, a short survey on how social workers currently assess neglect and their confidence in assessing neglect will be sent out through BASW this summer.  Your input will be greatly valued so watch this space!

Simon said ‘it was a privilege to attend the BASW Cymru session at the Senedd. It provided a great base to view social work as a profession inherently focussed on humanity and the dignity of people. Social justice has strong roots in Wales, and BASW Cymru seem to be quite rightly unashamedly focussed on how social work can genuinely support and empower people and communities’. 

Many of us rejoiced at meeting each other in ‘real life’ as we developed our working relationships over Zoom or Teams and had never met in person! There were many opportunities to mingle and meet BASW Cymru members and key partners. The canopies and wine were flowing and the Senedd was an exceptional location!

There was magic in the air. This showcase and celebration of social work bought people together to share their stories and smiles which ignited fuelled further passion for social work and future BASW Cymru events. Keep an eye out for our future events, we hope to see you soon!