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Sector urges politicians to ‘prioritise social work’ as Labour win in landslide

Responding to the outcome of the UK General Election, representative organisations for social work and social care are urging the new government to improve social work and social care.

05/07/24

Sector urges politicians to ‘prioritise social work’ as Labour win in landslide

Social work organisations are calling for Keir Starmer to prioritise social work in his plans after his party’s landslide win in the General Election.

The new Labour Government faces a number of thorny challenges affecting social work and social care, which received very little mention in the election campaign.

Research from the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) found that more than half of local authorities could declare effective bankruptcy in the next five years, affecting services for both children and adults.

Meanwhile, data analysed by Loughborough University for the End Child Poverty Coalition found that across the UK over 30% of children are in poverty – equivalent to nine children in every classroom.

Andy Smith, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), which represents leaders in local authority children’s social care, said it is a ‘critical time’ for children and the public services that support them.

“For too long children’s needs, their rights and outcomes have not been prioritised and for too long councils have been severely underfunded in the face of rising levels of need and costs. A growing number of councils are effectively bankrupt, or dangerously close to this and many vital and valued services, including services that help children and families before they reach crisis point, are at risk.

“The new government has many urgent challenges to address. This must include the crisis in local government funding, growing pressures in children’s social care and the SEND system and huge challenges facing children’s mental health. Improving the outcomes and life chances of children and families must be the golden thread running through all government policy and departments and we need a national plan for childhood. ADCS members stand ready to work with ministers to enable all children and families to thrive, now and in the future.”

Meanwhile, in a statement reacting to the election results, BASW and SWU said they were “determined” to engage in discussions with the new government at the earliest opportunity, insisting that social workers and people the profession supports must “be at the forefront of their plans from day one”.

“Many areas of children’s services have been stuck in crisis mode for far too long, with burnt-out social workers having too many caseloads while being under-resourced. Adult services are facing similar increasing levels of demand, while mental health services in England requires reform,” the statement said.

John McGowan, SWU General Secretary, said cuts to public services had caused many of the issues facing the new Government. “After fourteen years of deeply entrenched austerity wrecking public services and making people’s lives harder, the country is crying out for better,” he said.

“Social work has been at the sharp end of poor political choices that has plunged our profession into a recruitment and retention crisis and led to a decline in working conditions, while simultaneously increasing demand on services as communities become worse off.

“We hear from members everyday about the toll this is taking, and the buck stops at those in power with the responsibility to fix it. This is the strong case we’ll be making to the new government over the days, weeks and months ahead.”

BASW CEO Ruth Allen added that the problems faced by social workers and society “run deep, and require bold and immediate actions to address.”

“From better resourcing of social work and funding of social care, to measures that alleviate poverty, reform mental health provision, protect human rights, and much more. Ministers must hit the ground running, and BASW will be working hard to influence and hold them to account.”

Picture credit: Keir Starmer/Twitter

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