Specialist social worker posts maintained in face of cuts

Specialist social worker posts have been largely maintained for people with HIV/Aids despite significant cuts in funding for the client group.

Specialist social worker posts have been largely maintained in the face of significant cuts in social care funding for people with HIV/Aids, a survey has found.

But the National Aids Trust report raised concerns about a lack of training provided for generic social care staff in supporting the client group in councils that did not employ specialist social workers.

The survey of English councils follows a similar study of HIV/Aids social care spending conducted by the charity in 2008.

It found that the proportion of councils employing specialist HIV social workers had only fallen from 58% to 54% between the two studies, despite significant concerns over posts being cut

However, over the same period, there was a much sharper fall, from 86% to 61%, in the proportion of authorities spending their entire government allocation for HIV/Aids on social care for the client group.  From 1989 to 2010, this was in the shape of a ring-fenced Aids support grant, but since 2011, councils have received a notional allocation for people with HIV/Aids that they can spend how they like.

All but one of the councils employing specialist social workers in 2011-12 said they would continue to do so in 2012-13. However, just half of councils that did not employ a specialist social worker also funded training for generic social care staff in HIV/Aids, compared with 60% of the full sample.

“Where there are no HIV specialist social workers it is important that mainstream social care staff who are working with people with HIV have appropriate training,” the report said. “This will ensure they have a good awareness of the specific issues affecting people with HIV, and to reassure people with HIV about the knowledge and understanding of staff.”

The survey also raised concerns about access to services. In 2008, 55% of councils surveyed said people with HIV/Aids did not have to meet the Fair Access to Care Services eligibility threshold to access social care, because of the ring-fenced funding. However, the latest survey found 94% of councils said people with HIV/Aids had to meet eligibility thresholds to access council services, with the bar set at ‘substantial’ in most cases.

The National Aids Trust said this highlighted the importance of councils funding voluntary sector organisations to provide open access services to the client group; the survey found that 84% of authorities did so.

The NAT surveyed 99 of England’s 152 social services authorities, compared with 106 in 2008.

Picture: Lehtikuva OY/Rex Features

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