Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Radical Social Work Alive at BASW

Social work is a much maligned profession, and unfairly so given it's pivotal role in protecting vulnerable people. The reason for the muddied reputation of social work is that the profession has been subsumed by the targets and budget cuts forced on them by central government and local authorities. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has come out fighting against cuts to social care, bringing the revived spirit of radical social work to the fore so that the social work profession refuses to be the tool of those who aim to destroy the welfare state. Hilton Dawson, chief executive of BASW, has responded to the letter sent by The Broken of Britain in a very welcome and supportive manner. I will continue this correspondence and let you know of any developments:

Dear Rhydian,

Thank you for your letter regarding the judgement against Elaine McDonald.

BASW members were very distressed and angry to hear about this judgement. It is particularly worrying as the judgement appears to permit a local authority to reduce services without a re-assessment of need. It is really notable that the judgement was not unanimous. The consequences of the decision "do not bear thinking about" said Lady Hale, the one dissenting judge in the case. "The majority view would also entitle an authority to withdraw this help (help to go to the toilet) during the day. The only constraint would be how frequently (or rather how infrequently) it was deemed necessary to change the pads or sheets, consistently with the avoidance of infection and other hazards," she said

Lady Hale, in a very unusual move, has given advice that if the case had been fought on the proper interpretation and application of section 2(1) of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 Ms McDonald may have won.

BASW has been campaigning strongly on the cuts for many months and has given careful consideration to the situation that social workers across the country find themselves in on a daily basis. Guidance was issued to BASW members in March. The guidance clearly explores the ethical issues facing social workers, relating issues to the BASW Code of Ethics and giving particular consideration to how to challenge cuts to those who are most vulnerable. BASW argue that as a country we must give proper priority to improving services and outcomes for the most vulnerable people even at a time of economic stringency, not to cutting them.

The BASW guidance poses the question of what social workers are to do if they feel that cuts are unethical. Advice is given about principles that should guide social workers actions and behaviour and practical advice is given in an eight point plan, which includes:

"Tell BASW. We can preserve your anonymity if necessary and write to managers, Directors, Chief Executives, Councillors. We can meet senior managers with you. We can publicise what is happening and contact the press. Our A&R Service can advise any member who is victimised because of their resistance".

When you hear of cuts being considered, request full consultation for staff and service users and ask questions about:
• other areas where you suspect savings could be made
• whether the cuts are legal
• measures being taken to protect the most in need

"Inform service users about their rights and how to complain".

BASW members across the country have been taking these actions as well as campaigning against the cuts.

In May a survey of BASW members found that 95% of social workers said the cuts they are witnessing would cause suffering and hardship, while over 90% went as far as to suggest that lives would potentially be placed in jeopardy.

BASW fully supports your concerns about the issues raised by the Elaine McDonald case and would be happy to work jointly with Broken of Britain on a whole range of campaigns.

We would be delighted if you would suggest to your members that they question whether any social worker involved with them is a BASW member. BASW members are bound by the international ethical code for our profession which sets standards for ethical conduct which are frankly higher than those required by any Care Council or any other organisation

The UK is one of the richest countries in the world. If governments in all four countries get their priorities right there should be no need to inflict any cuts in vital services on human beings who are entitled to the highest standards of dignity and respect.

Yours sincerely

Hilton Dawson

Chief Executive of BASW and General Secretary of the Social Workers Union


Jan said...

What a lovely response. I'll be very interested to hear any more. Thanks Rhydian.

Sam Barnett-Cormack said...

Hilton Dawson? I'm sure it's not a common name, so I guess that's probably my old MP (and the last Labour MP Lancaster had, before going Tory in the last two elections).

Yeah, I should comment more substantively, but I'm foggy at the moment and fixating strangely on that.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.