The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has launched a new campaign to try to improve working conditions in the profession.
The ‘Respect for Social Work’ campaign will involve lobbying MPs in Parliament and upcoming party conferences to raise awareness about the workforce issues facing social workers on the frontline, BASW said.
BASW will work in partnership with the Social Workers Union (SWU) to address issues raised in research published in July, which found social workers were working through illness to keep on top of caseloads and had worked a total of £600 million in unpaid overtime in the past year.
It said the current working conditions for social workers had led to high sickness levels, with many professionals identifying high caseloads and a lack of support as problems facing them on a daily basis.
Ruth Allen, chief executive of BASW, said the key elements for success in social work were access to professional supervision, manageable caseloads, good leadership, fair pay and reduced bureaucracy.
At the campaign launch today, BASW will call for eight changes for social workers:
- Treat social workers like professionals who have solutions as well as legitimate concerns.
- End unmanageable workloads to reduce stress and attrition rates by employing more social workers, ensuring good caseload management and enable flexible working and smarter use of technology.
- Ensure time for reflective supervision to work through complex cases.
- Ensure all social workers have access to good continuing professional development.
- Ensure social workers’ managers have completed relevant training for their job.
- Provide administrative support to enable social workers to focus on people they serve.
- Lift the public pay cap for social workers, as for other public professionals.
- Ensure social workers have independent professional support, through their professional body and other resources.
Both BASW and the SWU said they would achieve their aims by lobbying MPs, speaking to MPs at both Labour and Conservative party conferences holding a demonstration against austerity, documenting the voices of social workers, and raising awareness about the issues on social media.
The campaign has been endorsed by Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham. She said: “I don’t think people realise the incredible work social workers do, day in – day out, to support vulnerable people, hold fragile families together or make sure the country’s children are safe.
“They are unsung heroes and that’s why I am supporting this campaign.”