The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is launching a campaign pack tomorrow outlining the steps social workers can take to stand up to austerity.
As part of the launch, social workers will meet outside Manchester Museum at 1pm to march around important parts of the city’s working-class heritage before finishing at Salford University at 4pm.
This follows the Boot Out Austerity march completed by BASW Chair Guy Shennan earlier this year. Donna Peach, a BASW council member, says this has prompted more discussion among the profession about how social workers can engage in a campaign against austerity.
Peach says there are two ways of looking at being a social worker. The first is as an agent of public policy, and the second is as an individual who can challenge public policies that may be affecting people’s health and wellbeing.
“[It is] not that we’ve just returned to [campaigning], but we’ve reignited something that is fundamental of our being as a profession, and its embedded in our ethics and values. “Our values and ethics in our profession never change,” Peach explains.
She says that campaigning part of being a social worker is being reignited in the face of the pressures austerity is putting on families and services.
Boot Out Austerity campaign
The Boot Out Austerity march was the beginning of a process which saw professionals become more engaged and sharing their voice, Peach says, but they didn’t always know how to do that, or what public sector workers can say.
“The campaign pack explains as citizens that we all have a right to safely voice our opinions and we’re all aware of the impact of austerity policies, so we should engage where possible in every day conversations about that.”
Peter Unwin, a social worker and lecturer, is engaging in the march on Thursday and with the wider campaign against austerity.
He says services have gotten to the point where “something’s got to be done”.
“I think it’s a tangible show that social workers aren’t going to take it anymore.”
He describes the frontline as being in “crisis” where austerity impacts service users through cuts to support services, but also social workers’ professional lives through increased pressure, more hotdesking and higher turnover.
“[Social workers] find it doubly frustrating because the kind of services they would have referred their service users to three, four, five years ago just aren’t there anymore,” he explains.
“I think it’s right that social work should reclaim that traditional role of social action for change because we’re the people really in touch, we are one of the few professions that go out to people’s homes and try to conduct our business in that environment rather than behind desks… we’re the profession that’s out there more than anyone else.”
Peach says BASW is taking a leading role to support social workers to have a voice and raise awareness about the realities of their jobs under austerity, and it is already having an impact.
She says social workers and service users already feel empowered to share their views because the association agrees with them.
Unwin agrees with the stance being taken: “It is trying to say that there is hope. Social protest, social awareness, using media – what do we do otherwise? We sit by and let it happen.”
BASW’s campaign pack will be made available on Thursday 29 November at the end of the event. The march begins outside Manchester Museum at 1pm.