Social work needs support now more than ever

The impact of the recession, financial hardship and job losses on families and individuals all adds up to more need for social workers, writes UNISON gen sec Dave Prentis.

Dave Prentis is the General Secretary of UNISON, Britain’s biggest public sector trade union with more than 1.3 million members

It’s only a matter of time before another tragic and preventable child protection case hits the headlines; that’s what my members in social work tell me. Last week, Professor Eileen Munro published her interim findings of yet another review of child protection, set up by the government last June.

Choruses of ‘tell me something I don’t know’‚ rang out from social workers at these findings. They know only too well how much paperwork and red tape gets in the way of them doing their jobs – they’ve been sounding alarm bells for years about the mountainous burden of bureaucracy they are buried beneath.

Of course, tackling paperwork is welcome, but social workers know this alone won’t be enough to give child protection the boost it desperately needs. The basic fact is still being ignored that impossible working conditions mean social workers can’t protect all children.

In review after review over the past ten years, social workers have spelt out loud and clear what needs to be done, so they can be forgiven for thinking that no one has been listening.

The Laming review, after the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, made more than 100 recommendations. The Social Work Taskforce, set up after baby Peter Connelly’s death, brought in hundreds of social workers, who pinned hopes on the process delivering real change. These reviews are set up in a blaze of publicity, there is righteous indignation from large parts of the media, with public anger harnessed and directed at the social workers. Yet, once the hysteria dies down, the media spotlight moves elsewhere and social work slips off the radar, it’s no longer a story.

Together with Community Care, and after much consultation with our members, UNISON has brought together the top ten priorities for boosting social work, into a ‘social work contract’‚ and we are campaigning for the government and social work employers to implement these measures as a matter of urgency.

The perennial issue of huge caseloads is top of the list. Reports after the tragic Khyra Ishaq case revealed one social worker had 50 cases. An impossible workload. The right to training, to raise concerns when workloads spiral out of control, and support to deal with stress and the trauma of tough cases, all feature.

You can add your voice to our campaign, by signing our online petition, which hundreds of social workers have already signed. Social work needs support now more than ever before. The impact of the recession, financial hardship and job losses on families and individuals all adds up to more need for social workers. But they will not escape the huge cuts hitting councils.

How ironic that just as Professor Munro shines a spotlight on the need for social workers to do less paperwork, many councils are making cuts of 25 per cent or more to administrative staff, who provide vital back-up so social workers can be out in the community. For every tragedy, there are tens of thousands of children and adults out there who owe their life chances to the diligence, support and professionalism of social workers. Social work and social workers deserve our support, too.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today. 

15 Responses to “Social work needs support now more than ever”

  1. Mary Maguire

    Dave Prentis says support social workers http://bit.ly/ihLLkd

  2. Brian Stout

    RT @leftfootfwd: Social work needs support now more than ever: http://bit.ly/eQ3F5W writes @UNISONtweets gen sec Dave Prentis

  3. Jayashree Gurjar

    Social work needs support now more than ever: The right to training, to raise concerns when workloads spiral out… http://bit.ly/fYdxGd

  4. Daniel Pitt

    RT @leftfootfwd: Social work needs support now more than ever: http://bit.ly/eQ3F5W writes @UNISONtweets gen sec Dave Prentis

  5. cb

    As a social worker (and long-standing member of Unison) it’s good to see this piece. The interim report from Munro had a lot of positives but I’d really like to make sure that the developments are not limited to child protection social work. There is a lot more to social work than this and it is important that people remember the broad range of social work and social work for adults is at far more risk of being cut in the present climate.
    Of course it shouldn’t be an ‘either/or’ but child protection is more emotive where the work among vulnerable adults often gets forgotten.
    So thanks for the post, but remember to speak up for all social workers not just the ones that grab the attention of the Munro report.

  6. L DTUC

    RT @leftfootfwd: Social work needs support now more than ever: http://bit.ly/eQ3F5W writes @UNISONtweets gen sec Dave Prentis

  7. Mr. Sensible

    Across the public sector, the government seems to have the mistaken belief that if you get rid of certain managers the burocracy goes away.

    In the health service, by getting rid of PCTS and SHAs, the paperwork won’t go away; it will be offloaded on to GPs.

    And in this case, as is I think pointed out here, if they cut social service managers social workers will be given the paperwork.

  8. AF

    The misuse of statistics can be very compelling….

    “For every tragedy, there are tens of thousands of children and adults out there who owe their life chances to the diligence, support and professionalism of social workers.”

    This is indicative of the collective problem with social workers. Even if this argument could be substantiated it would still be week. In the case of baby P, this same argument could be used to say for every tens-of-thousands children that has more than 30 emergency hospital visits

    Additionally public concerns do not simply disapates when media attention goes. It is very difficult for the media to run weeks of speculative reports, because individuals involved I.e fathers are gagged.

  9. Anon E Mouse

    My partner is a child protection social worker – has been for over 25 years and a member of Unison. It really is a pity this overpaid idiot, Dave Prentis doesn’t spend a little more time representing his union members instead of playing party politics.

    It’s thanks to Prentis and his lackys, that Labour now have the most useless leader anyone can remember and for that I blame Unison and all the other union dinosaurs that elected Ed Miliband.

    The cuts are coming and Prentis needs to get a grip. This article and others like it should have been written many many years ago…

  10. Kirsty McGregor

    RT @leftfootfwd: Social work needs support now more than ever, says Unison's Dave Prentis http://bit.ly/g8nfQc

  11. AF

    The use of statics can be quite misleading…

    “For every tragedy, there are tens of thousands of children and adults out there who owe their life chances to the diligence, support and professionalism of social workers.”

    Should the fathers of Peter Connelly or Khyra Ishaq be grateful that although numerous visits were made to the urine and excrement stained houses both their children lived in, but nothing was done to safeguard their vulnerable children? But because thousands of other children were taken into care some without any real reason?

    Or possible you mean that Peter Connelly was simply a statistic because, doctors repeatedly failed to identify the life threatening injuries he had during numerous examinations. Not to mention the allegedly failure to identify a fractured spine!

    Would you still suggest that because 1 in 8 or your own words “there are tens of thousands of children” who are alienated from their biological fathers because of unfounded allegations of domestic abuse or violence? The death of Peter Connelly, Khyra Ishaq, Alex Sutherland, Faith Lovemore, Victoria Climbie, Tiffany Wright, Sophie Casey,Kimberley Baker,Antoine Gamor, Kenniece Gamor, Chelsea Pickering, Sophie Merry, Kimberley Carlile, Doreen Mason, Leanne White, Delayno Mullings-Sewell, Romario Mullings-Sewell and far too many more can be justified?

    Everyone collectively accept that it would be impossible to guarantee the safeguarding of all children, except most social workers working in Child Protection who on a daily basis endeavour to do the impossible. Surrounding themselves in mountains of paper work, which they will never be able to manage.

    Unless there is a real risk of harm to the child or a criminal conviction to support allegations of domestic abuse or violence, social worker should play absolutely no role in the lives of children.

    Otherwise it will never be possible of stigmatising social workers as interfering busy-bodies who have no lives of their on…

  12. UNISON - the union

    RT @leftfootfwd Social work needs support now more than ever: http://bit.ly/eQ3F5W writes @unisontweets gen sec Dave Prentis

  13. lindadurrant

    RT @unisontweets: RT @leftfootfwd Social work needs support now more than ever: http://bit.ly/eQ3F5W writes @unisontweets gen sec Dave P …

  14. Andy Martin

    RT @unisontweets: RT @leftfootfwd Social work needs support now more than ever: http://bit.ly/eQ3F5W writes @unisontweets gen sec Dave P …

  15. WOMENSNETWORKINGHUB

    RT @unisontweets: RT @leftfootfwd Social work needs support now more than ever: http://bit.ly/eQ3F5W writes @unisontweets gen sec Dave P …

Leave a Reply