Social workers have warned that their ability to protect vulnerable children and adults will be compromised if further cuts to local authority budgets are approved.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) surveyed 638 of its members ahead of tomorrow’s spending review for 2015-16, to find out how the threat of future cuts might impact on services.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has reportedly agreed to a further 10% cut in local authority budgets in 2015.
The large majority of social workers responding to BASW’s survey (95%) said their ability to protect vulnerable children and adults would be seriously damaged if those cuts went ahead.
Nearly nine out of 10 said vulnerable people who rely on social work services would have their lives placed at “far greater risk” as a result.
A further 12% said the risks would be “slightly greater”. Only one respondent anticipated no impact on service users.
“There has been a significant impact on decisions being made about care packages based on funding rather than the needs of the service user,” said one social worker.
“There is too much emphasis on short term savings rather than the long term impact for the service user, which will then likely cost more money in the future due to their needs not being met at this time.”
Respondents also warned that further cuts would increase pressure on other public services such as acute health services, the police, the courts and prisons, because social workers will be less able to undertake preventive work.
Bridget Robb, chief executive of BASW, backed up this view: “Reducing the ability of social workers to help and protect people already results in greater pressure on more expensive services, such as pupil referral units, the police, prisons, A&E departments and the court system.
“Deep cuts to services are already having a terrible effect on the capacity of social workers to respond to a demand that continues to grow, with less time to assess the risks people face and less time to visit people who in some instances are living in highly vulnerable and dangerous situations.
“We are urging the chancellor and local authority leaders to protect frontline protection services for children and adults and invest in human capital both as a moral imperative and because it makes economic sense.”
BASW’s survey was carried out between 21 and 24 June.