British Association of Social Workers » News http://www.basw.co.uk Sat, 26 May 2018 03:20:48 +0100 en hourly 1 http://www.basw.co.uk NIASW welcomes Attorney General’s assurances that social workers are “highly unlikely” to fall foul of Universal Credit’s ‘rape clause’ http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1792 Fri, 25 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1792 The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) welcomes the publication of guidance by the Attorney General which provides assurance—that in the vast majority of cases—a social worker in Northern Ireland who does not report to police information concerning a rape disclosed as part of a Universal Credit application, will not have committed an offence.

NIASW strongly opposes the UK Government’s requirement that women seeking Universal Credit for a third or additional child conceived as a result of rape must have their application verified by an approved third-party. The Government’s list of approved third-parties includes social workers.

Since the introduction of the Universal Credit two-child cap and the associated “rape clause” exemption, NIASW members have been alarmed by the potential implications arising from the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967. Section 5 of the Act requires an individual with knowledge of a relevant offence to report it to the police, unless they have a reasonable excuse for not doing so.

This created concern that a social worker, who receives information regarding a rape from a service user seeking the verification of a Universal Credit application, would have to report the information to police, regardless of whether this was wanted by the service user.

The Attorney General’s document—Human Rights Guidance for the Public Prosecution Service in Relation to the Application of Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (NI) 1967 to Rape Victims and Those to Whom They Make Disclosures in Connection With a Claim for Social Security, Child Tax Credit or Anonymous Registration on the Electoral Roll—clarifies that in the vast majority of cases in which disclosures are not brought to the attention of police, no offence will have been committed either by the victim, or the third-party assisting them.

The guidance explains a woman who has been raped will “almost certainly” have a reasonable excuse for not reporting given the traumatising experience she has endured. It goes on to clarify that a third-party verifying a Universal Credit application will “almost invariably” have a reasonable excuse when the disclosure of rape is made only for the purpose of obtaining benefit, and the person making the disclosure has not reported the matter to police.

The guidance also notes it is “highly unlikely that it will be in the public interest to prosecute a person for failure to report information received about a rape to the police where that disclosure of rape is made in the context of the operation of social security and tax credit”. However, the Attorney General explains the situation may be different where the victim of the rape is a child or vulnerable adult, or where failure to report the offence to police is likely to put others at serious risk of harm.

NIASW has highlighted the need to protect social workers in the context of the rape clause and Section 5 with elected representatives, locally and nationally, including ministers in the Department of Work and Pensions and the Northern Ireland Office. We are pleased the Attorney General has taken decisive steps to provide assurance to social workers.

Nonetheless, NIASW members remain opposed to the Universal Credit two-child cap which is causing untold hardship and anxiety for many families throughout the UK. It is estimated that by the time Universal Credit is fully implemented, the two-child cap will have pushed an additional 200,000 children into poverty.

NIASW remains committed to the removal of the two-child cap and will continue to pressure the Government to reform its policy.

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BASW England launches the 80-20 campaign to improve working conditions for social workers and drive better outcomes for children http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1793 Fri, 25 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1793 BASW England, in partnership with the Children’s Commissioner’s Office, has launched a new initiative as part of our attempts to improve working conditions for social workers, and in turn improve outcomes for children.

The 80-20 campaign is an attempt to eventually reverse the current situation which sees social workers spending close to 80% of their time working on computers or completing paperwork, while only 20% of their time is spent in direct contact, building relationships with children and families.

The campaign draws upon a survey of 350 BASW members* which showed that in an average social worker working week of 45 hours, 29 are spent on a computer or doing paperwork.

Furthermore, we know that relationship-based practice requires skilled and reflective use of self, informed by critical reflection and analysis, and augmented by creativity and curiosity. Yet 32% of respondents said they spent no time on reflective practice per week and 42% of respondents said they spent less than an hour.

BASW England's survey and collaborating research from respected professors in the field of social work** highlight the need for an organisational culture shift to create more opportunities and time for social workers to have face to face contact with children.

This is not a case of remodelling social work but getting back to what works best.

Maris Stratulis, BASW England manager is leading this initiative and says: “The term ‘relationship based social work’ is not on add on, it is fundamentally about building relationships and that takes time, investment and commitment. More direct contact is what children are telling us they need, and we need to listen to what they are telling us.”

Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England, says: “Children in care deserve the chance to thrive and fulfil their aspirations, and stable relationships are an essential part of building their lives and achieving their potential. Children themselves say that stability is the most important aspect of their experience of care. That’s why I think the 80/20 campaign is an important opportunity to look at the impact of the direct time social workers spend with children and families, and at how we can improve the experiences of children in care.”

With 80-20 we may be attempting to flip the ratio, but we aren’t being flippant about the ‘how’ bit. We know we won’t be to click our fingers and suddenly social workers will be out in the field doing the life changing work they want to do.

But there are pathways to better practice, actual practical solutions that we have identified which we will be taking to local authorities with the aim of working with them to implement.

These include investing in better IT systems which don't require duplication. A look at local authority health-check surveys show on average, 87 per cent of social workers said they had access to IT, although the quality of equipment varied.

The most common reported IT problems were slow running computers, unreliable photocopiers and case recording systems going offline.

Some councils that had invested in new technology for social workers had seen it pay off.

In Bracknell Forest, staff were positive about the “considerable investment” in new equipment, including Blackberries. North Yorkshire BASW members said new technology had reduced duplication of work and increased their ability to do direct work.

Meanwhile, North Tyneside’s adult’s social worker members said laptops and tablets had saved them time and helped speed up case recording.

Another example is controlling admin through dedicated admin staff. Most social workers agree that they currently did tasks they felt could be done by an administrator. Examples including minute-taking, typing and scanning.

We know admin teams have been cut back, leaving remaining staff stretched or social workers expected to do their own admin. But by cutting down on unnecessary admin and providing team administrators to assist, social workers can be left to do the real relationship building work, thus cutting down the workload and reducing the need for extra, arguably more expensive agency staff.

One Suffolk social worker said the introduction of dedicated admin support for their team had “enormously” improved “the capacity and quality of service we can provide”.

We’ll also be advocating for a change in management thinking, to move away from managerialism focussing on performance indicators and targets and to place more importance put on direct work and outcomes for children. 

Leaders and managers should do everything possible to boost staff pride in their work, by supporting them to do what they trained for, by having autonomy to do what matters for their service users, and spend more time engaging in direct work.

This is just a flavour of what the 80-20 campaign is setting out to achieve.

In parallel, we will also continue our campaign to lobby government against anti-austerity measures that increase poverty, cause families to break down and thus become one of the drivers behind year-on-year increases in referral rates and child protection measures.

Notes:

* We conducted a survey of our members on how much ‘direct’ time social workers spend with children and families, asking six questions. Over 350 members from across the country responded and the results show the lack of direct time social workers are currently spending with children and families.

In a social worker’s average working week of 45 hours, 29 are spent on a computer or doing paperwork. The survey showed that on average our members spend only 11 hours a week on direct relationship-based time with children.

 

Perhaps more insightful than the figures are the comments left by respondents:

 

  1. “As a team manager the most common frustration I hear from the social work staff I supervise is that they do not have enough time to complete direct work with young people”

 

  1. “Social work is totally skewed in favour of administration and is the focus of supervision. This bias is shown in the fact that assessments/reports are scrutinised and send back to me for amending, but I have not been observed in direct work with any family/young person in 5 years, yet my paperwork is reviewed regularly.”

 

  1. “If only we could do the job we all came into the profession to do rather than being a slave to the computer and organisation bureaucracy.”

 

** Dr David Wilkins from University of Bedfordshire, Professor Donald Forrester from Cardiff University and researchers from the Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work and Social Care recently collaborated on three major Department of Education funded evaluations.

Information was gathered from over eight local authorities, including 600 audio recordings of social workers and families and 200 recordings of supervisions.

In a meeting organized by BASW, the results were presented to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Social Work.

The MPs were shown that government funding for social services has dropped significantly since 2010. That there has been an almost 29% drop in local spending power and that early help and preventative support services have borne substantial cuts.

In addition, the findings showed local authorities in more deprived areas have experienced around 45.6% in cuts, while local authorities in relatively affluent areas have seen 28.3% in cuts.

The research concluded that families are more likely to report good working relationships, agreed goals, lower levels of stress and higher life ratings when their social worker demonstrates good levels of skill, and that these benefits are only evident when there is sufficiently frequent contact.

But also, crucially, that the right working conditions need to be in place for social workers to achieve this.

As Dr David Wilkins says in his report: Workers understandably find it difficult to engage in emotionally-intensive work if they themselves are not well supported– asking how social workers are supported emotionally should form a core part of considering whether a service is good enough or not.

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Social Work England advertise for five Executive Director roles http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1789 Thu, 24 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1789 Social Work England have launched the recruitment to find Executive Directors five posts. Gatenby Sanderson are leading the recruitment campaign.

The Executive Director roles, with links to the vacancy pages, are:

In addition to their own website, Gatenby Sanderson are also advertising on the Times online, Ethnic Jobsite, Diversity Jobsite, LGBT Media, Disability Network, Disability Jobsite, Asian Jobsite, LinkedIn and the Law Gazette (for Principal Legal Adviser).

 

 

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Co-production at the heart of BASW Cymru http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1790 Thu, 24 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1790 Co-production at the heart of BASW Cymru

Time for the latest blog post from BASW Cymru and the subject of this one is co-production. Anyone practising in Wales will be very familiar with the concept of co-production as a central principle of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.

Co-production means working alongside people to ensure they’re involved in all decisions about their care or support.  People after all, are the experts on their own lives and what works for them. Co-production is necessary to ensure that other key principles in the Act such as voice and control, are also realised.

BASW has developed a framework for service user and carer involvement and BASW England has recruited service users and carers to inform the work of their adult’s policy, practice and education group. BASW Cymru is also determined to ensure that all our work is actively informed by those needing care and support and carers. We will also ensure that any policy or guidance that is initiated and developed in Wales, will be underpinned by the principles of co-production.

Our aspiration for the next year is to have service user and carer representation on our committee and we have set up a co-production sub-group of the Wales committee, to realise this ambition. We are fortunate to have a clear and ethical BASW framework to guide us, along with the support and advice of the Wales Co-production Network - who are themselves advised and supported by experts through experience.

Later this year in our social work awards ceremony, we are blessed to have Chris Roberts and Jayne Goodrick speaking about their experiences. Chris is living with early dementia and Jayne is his wife and when needed by Chris, his carer. I have been privileged to lobby and campaign with Chris and Jayne (and other key stake-holders) around the Wales Dementia Strategy and Action Plan, to ensure they are truly informed by those living with dementia and their carers and are fit for purpose. This is an example of co-production in action and what should be happening in all we do and produce in Wales.

I have just finished judging the nominations for the TPAS Cymru ‘Community Action Awards’. I won’t give anything away before the winner is announced on awards night! What jumped out loud and clear was the power of ordinary people combining their creativity, energy, diversity of experience and knowledge to co-produce solutions that have a positive impact on the well-being of their communities. I admit to shedding a tear a two, because I was so moved by the tenacity and ability of people to see solutions where others may see barriers and difficulty.

We would love to hear examples of co-production from our members and if you’d like to join the sub-group please do, just drop us an email with co-production in the header to: basw@wales.co.uk

 

Allison Hulmes

Professional Officer #TogetherStronger

 

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NIASW welcomes publication of the Attorney General’s Guidance on the application of the Criminal Law Act (NI) 1967 in the context of the Universal Credit “rape clause” http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1791 Thu, 24 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1791 The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) welcomes the publication of guidance by the Attorney General which provides assurance—that in the vast majority of cases—a social worker in Northern Ireland who does not report to police information concerning a rape disclosed as part of a Universal Credit application, will not have committed an offence.

NIASW strongly opposes the UK Government’s requirement that women seeking Universal Credit for a third or additional child conceived as a result of rape must have their application verified by an approved third-party. The Government’s list of approved third-parties includes social workers.

Since the introduction of the Universal Credit two-child cap and the associated “rape clause” exemption, NIASW members have been alarmed by the potential implications arising from the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967. Section 5 of the Act requires an individual with knowledge of a relevant offence to report it to the police, unless they have a reasonable excuse for not doing so.

This created concern that a social worker, who receives information regarding a rape from a service user seeking the verification of a Universal Credit application, would have to report the information to police, regardless of whether this was wanted by the service user.

The Attorney General’s document—Human Rights Guidance for the Public Prosecution Service in Relation to the Application of Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (NI) 1967 to Rape Victims and Those to Whom They Make Disclosures in Connection With a Claim for Social Security, Child Tax Credit or Anonymous Registration on the Electoral Roll—clarifies that in the vast majority of cases in which disclosures are not brought to the attention of police, no offence will have been committed either by the victim, or the third-party assisting them.

The guidance explains a woman who has been raped will “almost certainly” have a reasonable excuse for not reporting given the traumatising experience she has endured. It goes on to clarify that a third-party verifying a Universal Credit application will “almost invariably” have a reasonable excuse when the disclosure of rape is made only for the purpose of obtaining benefit, and the person making the disclosure has not reported the matter to police.

The guidance also notes it is “highly unlikely that it will be in the public interest to prosecute a person for failure to report information received about a rape to the police where that disclosure of rape is made in the context of the operation of social security and tax credit”. However, the Attorney General explains the situation may be different where the victim of the rape is a child or vulnerable adult, or where failure to report the offence to police is likely to put others at serious risk of harm.

NIASW has highlighted the need to protect social workers in the context of the rape clause and Section 5 with elected representatives, locally and nationally, including ministers in the Department of Work and Pensions and the Northern Ireland Office. We are pleased the Attorney General has taken decisive steps to provide assurance to social workers.

Nonetheless, NIASW members remain opposed to the Universal Credit two-child cap which is causing untold hardship and anxiety for many families throughout the UK. It is estimated that by the time Universal Credit is fully implemented, the two-child cap will have pushed an additional 200,000 children into poverty.

NIASW remains committed to the removal of the two-child cap and will continue to pressure the Government to reform its policy.

 

ENDS

Notes

  • The Attorney General For Northern Ireland’s Human Rights Guidance for the Public Prosecution Service in Relation to the Application of Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (NI) 1967 to Rape Victims and Those to Whom They Make Disclosures in Connection With a Claim for Social Security, Child Tax Credit or Anonymous Registration on the Electoral Roll is available here
  • The Child Poverty Action Group estimates the introduction of the Universal Credit two-child cap will push an additional 200,000 children into poverty across the UK once it is fully rolled out http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/Briefing%20two%20child%20limit.pdf
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“The system is cruel and needs to be reversed”: BASW comments on new research into benefits sanctions http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1788 Wed, 23 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1788 New research by Welfare Conditionality revealing benefit sanctions are ineffective at getting jobless people into work underlines what BASW has been stating for a long time: that this system pushes the most vulnerable over the edge.

The five-year project involved hundreds of claimants and is the UK’s most extensive study of welfare and the application of benefits sanctions.

It concluded that benefits sanctions – the policy of docking benefits as punishment for alleged failures to comply with jobcentre rules –  is more likely “to reduce those affected to poverty, ill-health or even survival crime”.

BASW chief executive Dr Ruth Allen, says: “This research shows the futility, cruelty and lasting damage of the welfare benefits sanctions system.

“It comes on the back of successive reviews and legal cases which have shown that this ideologically driven approach to job seeking under severe duress is ineffective as well as inhumane, socially divisive and disproportionately harmful to people who are already socially excluded through disability.”

Allen adds: “Now is the time to reverse these policies entirely and to commit as a society to properly incentivising and supporting people into employment whatever their support needs.”

BASW members have repeatedly reported the negative financial, health and behavioural outcomes of service users who have experienced benefits sanctions, such as disabled people being unfairly penalised while others are forced out of the system altogether.

As the professional association for social workers, we are advocating for a better system, one that tackles discrimination in the workplace, protects employee rights, reduces inequalities and ensures all citizens have access to a good education and training, as well as health and social care that underpin a decent standard of living.

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"The Gift of a Lifetime": How it felt to be nominated for Practice Teacher of the Year http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1787 Tue, 22 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1787 When a colleague contacted me to say she wanted to nominate me as SASW’s Practice Teacher of the Year, I was extremely touched that she thought that much of me professionally. It was out of the blue and took me by surprise, and it took me awhile to process how it felt to be singled out for recognition...in fact, I think I’m still processing it now! Add to this that two other colleagues and two previous students got behind this and added their views to support the nomination – I was truly humbled.  I couldn’t believe that ‘just doing my job’ had meant that much to the people I worked with and alongside. I was forced to think about what ‘just doing my job’ really meant, and recognise that I have worked hard to build strong communities of mutual support; that my approach to teaching and learning is based on collaboration, valuing and respect and, ultimately, if you convey these values to others they come back to you. Never mind being shortlisted and then honoured by being highly commended, being nominated by people I respect, who clearly feel the same about me, was the gift of a lifetime.

It felt to me that being recognised in this way by others gave validation to the hard work of Independent Practice Teachers everywhere.  I was nominated by some of the most hard working, ethical and dedicated practitioners in adult education, all of whom are self-employed and setting a standard of best practice in practice teaching without the benefits of a team, line management, paid holidays, travel or sick leave – even opportunities for CPD come at a cost. Regardless, we as a group have not just practiced to high standards, we have contributed collectively to developments, plans, growth and communication in and around practice learning in Scotland, just because we care.

So, kudos to the Independent Practice Teachers/Educators, and to all those who care and contribute to practice learning in Scotland, despite institutional and structural challenges – keeping alive the sacred light of learning, holding on to space for human growth and development, for recognition of individual abilities, capabilities and strengths against forces that push for conformity and rationalisation. The individual is at the heart of social work education; social work education holds and promotes the heart of social work values.

The experience of being nominated for the Practice Teacher of the Year Award has prompted me to reflect on my chosen career and its centrality to the social work profession.  I wonder if there is more that could be done to develop the profile, recognition and validation of practice teaching as not just a specialism within social work, but a vocation and a calling.  If anyone wants to think about this together get in touch, let’s collaborate!

 

 

Jessica Proctor

best.foot.forward@hotmail.co.uk

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Lords debate on social workers' poor working conditions http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1786 Fri, 18 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1786 Social workers are having to work extra unpaid hours to plug gaps in provision caused by cuts, it was warned during a debate in the House of Lords.

Research commissioned by the Social Workers Union suggesting staff work the equivalent of 64 days a year unpaid overtime was described as “chilling” by Labour Peer Lord Watson.

He claimed the Government was benefiting from the goodwill of social workers who were struggling to keep services running at their own expense.

Lord Watson, who is Labour’s education spokesman, said: “It is a double whammy, because social workers are asked to do more – some of it unpaid – with fewer resources.

“It is also a double whammy for the Government, because not only do they save money through cutting the resources allocated to local authorities, and hence social work departments, they then get greater productivity from social work staff, whose dedication to their job and the vulnerable people they joined the profession to help means that they do not incur the additional wage costs to which they are entitled.”

The SWU research, undertaken by Bath Spa University, found 55 per cent of 1,700 social workers surveyed were considering quitting over the next 15 months, with unmanageable caseloads, a lack of support and bureaucracy among their concerns.

The report led to SWU and BASW launching their ‘Respect for Social Work’ campaign calling for better working conditions.

Lord Watson said the Department for Education had taken action on similar research on teacher workloads carried out by their professional bodies.

He said: “That process is continuing, but the teacher unions are facing the workload challenge and working with the DfE to get assurances on workload reduction. It’s clear that what is required is a similarly positive approach from government as regards social workers and their workload.”

Responding for the Government, Baroness Manzoor said social workers did “vital work” and ministers “recognise the impact that high workloads, stress and low morale have on recruitment and retention”.

Baroness Manzoor said the Government was investing more dedicated funding for adult social care over the next three years and had given more “flexibility” to how funding could be spent on children’s services.

A range of social work reforms, including the creation of a new regulator, social work teaching partnerships and investment in training and development, would also help staff, she added.

“The government must do all they can, as has already been said, to empower and champion social work, but we must also acknowledge the responsibility of local authorities to ensure social workers have manageable workloads and receive quality supervision and support, which prioritises practice over process.” 

The debate was brought by Labour Co-Op peer Lord Kennedy. He said stress could have “devastating consequences” for people and it was vital that the issues social workers raised in the research were tackled “to avoid even more serious problems in the future”.

Click here to watch the full debate

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BASW launches a review of its mentoring scheme http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1781 Thu, 17 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1781 The British Association of Social Work (BASW) England are pleased to announce that we are undertaking a review of the mentoring scheme that was launched in 2011. The scheme which was initially developed as a response to calls for support from newly qualified social workers (NQSW’s), has also supported social workers seeking advice on returning to social work, as well as overseas social workers who needed advice and guidance on working as a social worker in the UK. For more information about the current scheme click here

The landscape for NQSWs has changed considerably over the last 7 years. There have been significant changes to the support and development for NQSW’s, with many employers and universities working closely together to recruit and support NQSW’s via the Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE).

Carol Stewart, Director of Chinara Enterprises Ltd has been selected to undertake the review on behalf of BASW.  Carol is a qualified social worker of over 20 years and has a wealth of experience in developing mentoring schemes and ASYE programmes. Her company has been delivering the Return to Social Work programme on behalf of the Local Government Association for the past two years, as well as offering mentoring and training to agency social workers across the UK.

BASW are seeking the views of members in England about whether there is a need for a mentoring scheme managed by BASW, and if this is still needed what members would like from a mentoring programme, for example supporting more experienced social workers at various points of their career.

To take part in the survey click here

The closing date for responses is Monday 18th of June

 

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BASW and The Children's Society launch survey on 'support for 16 and 17 year old children in need and young people’s transitions to adulthood' http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1784 Thu, 17 May 2018 00:00:00 +0100 BASW media http://www.basw.co.uk/news/article/?id=1784 This week, BASW and The Children's Society have published a survey on 'Support for 16 and 17 year old children in need and young people’s transitions to adulthood'.

Young people aged 16 and 17 are legally children and are entitled to the protections of the legislation related to children. This survey, put together jointly by The Children’s Society and the British Association for Social Workers, asks questions about:

  • support available for 16 and 17 year olds who are children subject to a ‘child in need plan’ and children subject to a ‘child protection plan’ or through early help;
  • how the support helps prepare them for adulthood, and 
  • changes needed to improve support for vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds during transition and into young adulthood.

The results of the survey will be shared with the Children in Need review conducted by the Government. It will also inform the development of guidance on supporting vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds that will be developed jointly by The Children’s Society and BASW.

Click here to take the survey

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