Social work membership organisations: Our guide to choosing the right one

The College of Social Work, BASW and Unison:
The costs and benefits for social workers in 2012

Annual cost of membership £10 – student
£60 – employed social worker
£90 – independent social worker
(Fees payable from 1 April)
£50.52 – student
£85.68 – newly qualified social worker
£171.36 – employed social worker/less than five years qualified
£231.36 – independent social worker/less than five years
£240 – employed social worker/more than five years qualified
£300 – independent social worker/ more than five years
£351.36 – independents/less than five years/with public liability insurance cover
£420 – independents/more than five years/public liability
£10 – student
£168 – if you earn £20,001 – £25,000
£207 – if you earn £25,001 – £30,000
£243.60 – if you earn £30,001 – £35,000
£270 – if you earn over £35,000 a year
Geographical region England UK UK
Professional insurance £2m professional indemnity insurance cover for all members to cover claims by clients concerning mistakes or negligence

£5m public liability insurance cover for independent social workers to cover claims by clients for injury or damage to property

£5m professional indemnity insurance cover for all members

£5m public liability insurance cover for independent social workers who pay an enhanced membership fee (see above)

None, on the basis that professional indemnity insurance is provided by employers.
Advice and representation at work None. The college encourages members to join a trade union or professional association of their choice to obtain advice and representation Advice and representation at work service available to all BASW members in workplace disciplinary and grievance procedures, employment tribunal cases and regulatory cases before care councils. Only those who have opted to join The Social Workers Union (SWU) have statutory right to be accompanied by an official in workplace hearings

SWU volunteers appointed to support members in the workplace.
Union recognised by two local authorities in collective bargaining to negotiate pay and conditions at work. However, employers have no obligation to recognise SWU where other unions are already recognised to represent social workers, as is the case in all public bodies

Legal advice and representation provided in employment tribunals, criminal cases, personal injury claims arising out of work, workplace disputes, grievances and disciplinary cases and regulatory cases before care councils

Branch representatives, including some social care specialists, provide support for members within the workplace

Recognised for collective bargaining to negotiate pay and conditions for local authority and NHS employees nationally and locally and for social workers in Cafcass, care regulators and some voluntary sector organisations

Professional insurance Responsible for developing and upholding standards in social work, through the professional capabilities framework Has code of ethics, setting out standards for practice. Also involved in drawing up professional capabilities framework Involved in drawing up of professional capabilities framework
Social work publications and media Monthly digital magazine, Social Work Matters Free monthly magazine, Professional Social Work

Online news on BASW website

Quarterly magazine, Rostrum, for Scottish members

Publishes academic journal, the British Journal of Social Work, and Practice, which features practice-based research, with discounted subscriptions for members

Publishes books with discounts for members

Unison workplace zone for social care professionals in partnership with Community Care, on Community Care website
Social work practice advice and support Face-to-face support from trained mentors

Online communities of practice bringing together information on particular practice areas and an opportunity for social workers to network

An online professional practice helpdesk service

Professional officers consult members on professional issues and take up concerns nationally

Access to support from special interest groups on particular areas of practice and branches

AskBASW, an e-helpline for responding to professional queries and concerns

Stewards and activists with social work background advise on issues including professional development, capability and workload
Campaigning on behalf of social workers Plans to campaign and lobby on behalf of social workers against cuts, to improve support from employers for social workers and to strengthen the role of social workers with adults Campaigns across a range of social work issues, with current campaigns opposing caps on independent social worker fees, for a Social Work Bill to strengthen the statutory basis of the profession and against some social workers having to pay duplicate fees for registration this year Campaigns to improve working conditions for social workers and against social care cuts

Last year, with Community Care, issued a Social Work Contract, including the right to a manageable workload and minimum levels of supervision, and is also campaigning against the increase in registration fees for social workers in England this year

Welfare benefits None BASW founded two hardship charities – The Social Workers Benevolent Trust and The Social Workers Educational Trust – but benefits are not restricted to BASW members Unison Welfare – a charity providing support to members and dependents at times of special need

Free debt advice

Cash benefits for accidents or injuries at work and death benefits for families

Discounts on mortgages, motoring, holiday, travel, financial services and more

Social work training resources An e-portfolio (from June 2012) where members can record their continuing professional development, linked to registration requirements

Access to academic journals through Athens, an online database of research publications

Directory of endorsed training providers from June 2012

MyBASW online tool to log continual professional development, linked to registration requirements

Events and conferences with discounted attendance for members.

Has a national agreement with the Open University to provide access to higher education courses including the Foundations for Social Work Practice and Learning Partnership Route, which combines the social work degree with support for social care employees without educational qualifications

Social work students can apply for small bursaries and book grants

Democracy Currently governed by an appointed transitional board, which will appoint the chief executive. This spring, members will elect a board to take responsibility for the organisation. Three college faculties, for adults, children and mental health, and communities of interest within them will elect chairs and vice-chairs who will collectively form a professional assembly to provide professional leadership Members vote on BASW policy at annual general meetings or extraordinary general meetings

Members also elect chair and the other members of BASWs governing Council

The chief executive is appointed by the council

Unison members vote for local shop stewards, branch, regional and local leaders and for members of service group executives, which represent areas including local government and health

Branches elect delegates to vote on Unison policy at the annual conference

Why they say you should join The profession urgently needs a College through which to take control of its professional standards, speak with a strong voice to policy makers and promote its interests to better serve individuals, families and communities. The College will defend social work against the cuts, show why social work is indispensable in adult services and show how the Munro reforms support the proper development of the profession. BASW has grown by 26% over the last three years, is genuinely independent, genuinely led by social workers, and has the only union exclusively for social workers.

BASW provides vital protection for social workers, including advice and representation, as well as professional development services – from free events to the only printed magazine dedicated solely to social work.

Unison is the trade union for social workers. We negotiate on pay and conditions of service at national and local level and provide individual advice and representation to social workers through our network of branches. Many of our stewards have a social work background – so they can provide tailored advice and support. We also campaign on social work issues and represent social workers to government, policy-makers and in the media.
Social work membership total Just started recruiting with target of 6,000 members by April BASW: 14,307 (as of 3 January)
SWU: 2,743 (as of 3 January)
Over 40,000
Find out more College website BASW wesbite Unison website


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