Social workers’ association faces fight for recognition at five councils

The British Association of Social Workers may
mount a legal challenge against five councils that refuse to allow
the organisation to represent its members at disciplinary

The move follows a long-running case involving
a former care manager who approached BASW for help after suffering
work-related stress while an employee of Kent Council but was told
the council did not recognise BASW.

Director of BASW Ian Johnston said: “The
problem is these authorities are interpreting the Advisory,
Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) guidelines in a very
narrow way. We are currently seeking legal advice on how to prevent
them doing this under the Human Rights Act 1998, which says you are
entitled to be accompanied to meetings by whomever you choose.”

Guidance issued by Acas states that an
individual may be accompanied to disciplinary meetings by a friend,
colleague or trade union. BASW is a professional organisation.

Johnston said the organisation had considered
registering as a trade union to eradicate the problem but had
decided against it because it did not hold any other trade union

Meanwhile, the former hospital manager, who
does not wish to be named, has written to BASW demanding seven
years’ worth of contributions to be refunded, claiming it was not
made clear to her that BASW could not represent her in disciplinary

“I have also suggested that they should write
to each new member telling them if they cannot represent them. If I
had known that they wouldn’t be able to help I would have joined a
trade union,” she said.

But Johnston said: “We make no pretence of
being a trade union and every new member is sent a brochure
explaining the limits of our advisory service. We will not refund
this person’s money because contributions pay for many other
things, not just the advice service.”

He added: “I don’t accept that our service has
been deficient.”

The four other councils that do not allow BASW
to be involved in disciplinary proceedings are Ealing, Harrow,
Croydon and Hounslow.

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