BASW launches campaign urging better working conditions for social workers

BASW calls for an end to high caseloads and better supervision for social workers

Published on 23rd September 2017

The British Association of Social Workers has launched a campaign to urge better professional working conditions for social workers.

The ‘Respect for Social Work’ campaign is calling for an end to unmanageable workloads, relevant training, access to CPD, good supervision, flexible working and smarter use of technology in a bid to curb social workers from fleeing the profession.

On behalf of BASW, Mike Bush said: “The concept seems to be that social workers can give endlessly to others and not need anything in return. Cars breakdown if they are not properly serviced and maintained – so do people in caring professions like social work.

“A burnt-out social worker is no good to anyone. Nobody is winning from this situation. We need to address this now and it would be wise for the government to listen to what BASW and SWU are saying and take heed of the solutions they recommend,” he added.

The recent UK Social Workers: Working Conditions and Wellbeing study revealed an alarming picture of ‘spun out’ social workers at risk of leaving the job they love due to the high demands placed on them in a culture of austerity cuts.

The study, by Bath Spa University’s Dr. Jermaine Ravalier in conjunction with the BASW and Social Workers’ Union showed that increasing demand but diminishing resources has created a crisis in many social service departments, and social workers are bearing the brunt.

As a result, there are record-high rates of sickness and over half of those surveyed reported an intention to leave the profession early.

The study, of more than 1,600 social workers, highlighted that social workers love their job – but conditions for practice are pushing many away.

-          52% of UK social workers intend to leave the profession within 15 months

-          This figure increases to 55% for social workers working specifically in children's services

-          UK social workers are working more than £600 million of unpaid overtime.

-          Over 70% of social workers surveyed cited high, unmanageable caseloads, a lack of professional and peer support and burdensome red-tape and bureaucracy as the main reasons for leaving.

BASW and SWU believe it is possible to create professional working environments to keep social workers in practice and are launching the campaign to call for better professional conditions for social workers. BASW and SWU are leading a new drive to work positively with employers and politicians, and social workers in practice, to promote these solutions.

BASW and SWU are calling for:

  1. Social workers to be treated like professionals who have solutions as well as legitimate concerns


  1. An end to management regimes of unmanageable workloads to reduce stress and attrition rates and for more social workers to be employed to ensure good caseload management, enable flexible working and smarter use of technology


  1. Ensure there is time allocated for reflective supervision to work through complex cases


  1. Ensure all social workers have access to good continuing professional development


  1. Ensure social workers’ managers have completed relevant training for their job


  1. Provide administrative support to enable social workers to focus on people they serve


  1. Lift the public pay cap for social workers, as for other public professionals


  1. Ensure social workers have independent professional support, through their professional body (BASW) and other resources, readily accessible through various touch points such as a 'hotline'.


“We know the key elements of success: access to professional supervision, manageable caseloads, good leadership and management, fair pay, reduced unnecessary bureaucracy, time to spend with individuals and families, and access to ongoing professional development and wellbeing support,” says BASW CEO Ruth Allen. 

“Peer support amongst social workers is also crucial and protects against burn out, as the study showed,” added Allen. “A stable and well-trained workforce, with replenishment of new joiners as well as ongoing development of advanced skills is essential to meet social care and social work needs of children and adults,” says Allen.

“Less experienced social workers need mentoring from experienced staff. We must stem the risks of losing – and wasting the skills – of experienced staff.”

'Respect for Social Work: the campaign for professional working conditions' was launched at the Social Worker’s Union’s AGM in London. BASW will discuss issues with MPs at the upcoming Labour and Conservative party conferences, with MPS and Peers in Parliament and with employers at the National Directors’ Conference in October. It will also link with members’ participation in anti-austerity demonstrations in October.


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