In June, Nushra Mansuri attended the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children, featuring the launch of a report called Are Children and Young People Getting the Opportunities they Want? This flagged up issues about the health of children, with startling facts presented by varying bodies. Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, reported that by 2020 child poverty is likely to increase by 800,000. There has been a 21% decrease in the number of children who are in prison this year, but England holds the European record for the youngest age a child can go through the criminal justice system.
Continuing our concerns about the economic situation, Nushra was pleased to be invited by Bournemouth University to speak about Child Protection and Austerity. Her main contention was on the tendency of politicians to view social work in terms of ‘deficit’ rather than ‘value added’ and that this negative mindset needs to be broken.
On the campaigning front, Nushra attended a meeting with colleagues from Nagalro and CISWA- UK, to talk to civil servants from the MoJ and the Legal Aid Agency about the increasingly limited payments for independent social workers acting as expert witnesses in care proceedings.
Following unsatisfactory outcomes from Ofsted inspections, Nushra and Sue Kent appeared on regional BBC news during June, speaking about Cumbria and Wiltshire respectively. About a quarter of all local authorities that have been inspected under the new framework have received an inadequate rating. There is a varying response to such critical assessments – in some cases, it can mean resignations and/or outside consultants being brought in to turn things around. In Cumbria the council recognised that capacity was issue and decided to increase the number of social workers, while in Wiltshire the focus was on workforce planning and using fewer agency staff, as well as improving NQSW recruitment – both good responses.
Sue attended the Employer Standards Advisory Implementation Group, which received over 2,000 responses to its questionnaire evaluating how the employer standards are being implemented. Overall the results were pleasing with quantitative information suggesting most were aware of the standards. However, there were some concerning comments submitted by social workers about their employers (see blog). The group concluded that the standards should be rewritten and we will be asking for your views on this shortly.
Joe Godden is keen to emphasise how member engagement is a real BASW strength. He says: “When we meet members and non-members we are often asked, ‘What is BASW’s view on this’, or ‘what is BASW doing about that?’ Our reply is that we are a membership organisation and so what we do and can achieve depends on member involvement. We recognise the great pressures that social workers are under and that time is precious; however, members who have become more active say that getting involved has helped them. It enables them to see the bigger picture, is interesting and therefore motivating, and they like the fact that their input can lead to change.
We are pleased to say that BASW England’s reference and network groups have grown in numbers and membership since we have moved to mainly virtual communication. Members are also actively involved in lots of other ways, including: mentoring, facilitating seminars, writing for PSW, reviewing books, attending meetings, reviewing Government and other consultation documents, commenting on events affecting social work, giving advice to other members, helping to organise events, writing case studies for the HCPC, and more besides. BASW is not funded by taxpayers’ money, but one of our real assets is that we offer genuine ways to get involved in improving social work. So if you think you could spare a small amount of time to benefit BASW and help yourself at the same time, do get in touch.
A Call to Arms
We were especially pleased that the SWU AGM featured motions condemning the Government’s campaign against the unemployed and those who claim benefits. It is unfair that those who cannot find work are pilloried in this way. One of our key professional values is around social justice and this is an injustice that is impacting on those who are often least able to speak up for themselves.
The effects of continually being told you are no good, that you are a scrounger, that your joblessness is all your own fault, are terrible for individuals and families and can lead to depression and other mental health problems. We should be speaking with our service users (never for them) against this unfairness, making sure that in our conversations we tell people what is really happening to good people, and campaigning where we can.
And finally, on a positive note, Sue Kent attended the Glastonbury Festival and lost her purse amongst the 130,000-plus crowd. She was amazed to find it in lost property the following day, however, with all £160 cash intact – a reminder of how good our society can be.