Chair’s Newsletter February 2019

Labour Social Work Group 

Chair’s Newsletter February 2019

I’m finding it difficult to write this, partly because of the tensions, stresses and strains within the Labour party – with Brexit and other issues as well – and being aware that there will be differences amongst us a LSWG members as there are for Labour Party members and supporters as whole.

But also because in one sense Brexit is taking over much time and energy but at the same time a lot is happening on the policy and practice level. And although we are linked to the Labour Party as a ‘Member-led group’ some of our members and supporters are ‘left-leaning’ but not Labour Party member.s

SO FORGIVE ME IF THIS IS LONG DELAYED AND A BIT OF A RAMBLE – but I wanted to stay in touch

It has just not seemed the right time to approach MPs about social work issues though there have been some brilliant- and moving speeches in recent debates on the cumulative impact of the year on year cuts to adults and children’s services.

* I was particularly moved by some powerful speeches in the debate on 17 January (look it up in Hansard or Parliament TV) on Children’s Social Care and the funding crisis.

Emma Lewell-Buck incisively demolished the DfE Minister’s argument that ‘Innovations Funds’ and ‘Partners in Practice’ were making up for the funding inadequacies, and Lyn Brown– movingly drew attention to the impact on parents and children of housing stress and homelessness. Other Labour MPs who intervened powerfully were Laura Smith, Mohammad Yasin and Luke Pollard.  If any of these are your constituency MPs- do make a point of thanking them and let me know so I can do so from LSWG.

Luke Pollard by the way is the new Chair of the APPG on Social Work  Maddie Jennings – BASW Parliamentary Officer liaises with him. Just before Christmas I spoke at a meeting in Westminster of the APPG on Social Work on the negative impact of ‘outsourcing’ of children’s services and the rapid increase in social workers now working for private for-profit agencies.

 

* This deficit in funding for Children’s services has also been the subject of a NAO report and Hearing by the Audit Committee.  Labour Chair Meg Hillier posed some incisive questions to the Permanent Secretary ad DfE and the Chief Social Worker.  The usual vague and un-persuasive responses from them –  Problem- what problem?  Don’t you know that Innovations and Partners for Practice are sorting it?  Happily, Meg Hillier and Labour colleagues seemed unconvinced and continued to probe.

* The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee issued a consultation document on funding of children’s services just before Christmas.  I made a short submission but more substantial was the evidence of Ray Jones, who spoke powerfully to his submission- mainly about the damage being done to quality and the scandalous waste of already pitifully inadequate funding on private-for profit agencies. Others at the hearings made powerful arguments on the same point.  Well worth looking up.  11 Feb  http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/housing-communities-and-local-government-

 

See also the Committee hearing when Stuart Gallimore of ADCS and Ruth Allen of BASW gave evidence to the committee.  Several members of LSWG contributed to BASW’s written submission  https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/19d26d1d-dda3-4c1c-bd7c-130cff02c00e

The contributors to these sessions have been in broad agreement. Gravely  Inadequate resources from central govt to local authorities.  Some form of ring fencing may be needed for children’s services as a whole, with local government decision making but making sure there is sufficient for early help as well as those who need a protection or in care service. SOMETHING must be done re tendering processes and huge profits being made by large venture capital run private providers.  Mixed economy neded but with local authorities having their own services as part of the mix to make them less dependent on private providers.

*All giving evidence have commented on the inadequacy of an approach that emphasises tendering for short term ‘innovations’ funding.  It was stated that 11 authorities have received 50% of this funding.  What about the remaining 140?

* Ruth Allen made the interesting point that LAs should move back to grant funding of the voluntary sector agencies to allow for more creativity and local partnership working

* The question of increased funding with respect to families caught for months and years the ‘no recourse to public funds’ position was also mentioned.

More sessions of the inquiry to come this month.

And I don’t use this space for advertising publications but make an exception for Ray Jones’ recently published book  ‘In Whose Interest. The Privatisation of Child Protection and Social Work . Policy Press   Although focussing on child and family social work it has important messages about out-sourcing across client and needs groups

Three other issues made me get my act together:

Social care and moves towards integration of health and social care

 

Firstly, I wanted to alert LSWG members to a proposed resolution on social care being proposed for Labour Conference and inclusion within the next Labour Party Manifesto.  It is being worked on by groups with similar agendas to ours including Centre for Welfare Reform, Reclaim Social Care, Socialist Health Association. Some of those involved are also LSWG members.  There has been a likely email discussion and the details may have changed but I would like to have any comments from members as to whether you think LSWG should support it.  So much of the discussion about ‘Integrating Health and Social Care’ has been focused on the ‘frail elderly’ and has really been about care and not social care, and with almost no mention of social work.  But this is inclusive of ‘adults of working age’ who need a social work and social care service. Much of the debate is around the role of local government.  Personally, I have been glad that Andrew Gwynn as the Shadow Communities and Local Government Minister has been a strong advocate of strengthening Local Government and proper financing of adults and Children’s social services.

The last version I saw of the proposed conference motion is below but it may have changed.

Social Care and Support (model Labour Party Resolution)

 

England’s social care system is broken. Local Authorities face £700m cuts in 2018-19. With £7 billion slashed since 2010, 26% fewer older people receive support, while demand grows.

 

Most care is privatised, doesn’t reflect users’ needs and wishes, whilst charges increase.

 

Consequences include isolation, indignity, maltreatment. Disabled and elderly people face barriers to inclusion and independent living, thousands feel neglected. 8 million unpaid, overworked family carers, including children and elderly relatives, provide vital support.

 

Public money goes to shareholders and hedgefunds as profits. Service users and families face instability as companies go bust overnight.

 

Staff wages, training and conditions are pared to the bone. Staff turnover is over 30%.

 

Conference demands Labour places a duty on SoS deliver comprehensive social care and support:

  • Free at the point of use
  • Fully funded through progressive taxation
  • Subject to national standards ensured by local authorities
  • Publicly provided through local authorities and the NHS in partnership
  • Locally democratic and designed by service users and carers in partnership with local authorities and the NHS, delivered as far as possible by service users.
  • Addressing aims, aspirations and choices of all users
  • Providing staff with training, qualifications, career structure, decent pay and conditions
  • Giving informal carers the rights and support they need.

 

Labour to set up a taskforce to develop a universal care and support service working with user groups, in collaboration with a national independent living service and available to all on basis of need, based on article 19 of the UNCRPD.

 

246 words

 

  • Social Work England

 

The consultation closes 1 May.  Hopefully members of LWG will be commenting via other groupings.  I think it best to make our views known in ways not specifically associated with political parties, but LSWG has continuing links with the H of Lords and Commons Labour politicians so  I would be interested in any views people have.

Our friends in Parliament are always happy to ask PQs on this and other issues

AND STILL THERE IS NO REGISTERED SOCIAL WORKER OR SOCIAL WORK EDUCCATOR ON THIS BODY

I WOULD BE INTERESTED TO KNOW IF ANY MEMBERS HAVE BEEEN MAKING THEIR VIEWS KNOWN ABOUT THIS.  Some of us have been trying through different avenues.

 

3   Related to the above:    Frontline

 

I know LSWG members have been vocal on twitter and using other avenues to protest about the £45 to be handed over to Frontline.  BASW and APSW and JSWEC are pressing for an ‘open book’ consultation with DfE and DH on how to appropriately allocate whatever funding is available for social work initial training and also post qualifying.  (eg how come (as per some tweeting) DfE funding goes to Frontline to provide CPD opportunities to  ‘Frontline Fellows’ when funds for HEI based PQ modules are so hard to come by.

It was to say the least unhelpful, (as LSWG tweeters will have noted), that Frontline’s twitter feed announced that Angela Rayner (Labour’s Shadow Education cabinet member) was (following on from an effusive statement from the Children’s Minister) quoted as saying that she is a strong supporter of social work but also that she congratulated Frontline on its achievements.  I’m not sure how that happened as (thanks to Emma Lewell-Buck’s intervention)  the 2017  Labour Manifesto removed the 2015 Manifesto statement  that Labour supported Frontline and changed it to support for ALL HEI-based social work education. Since Frontline is now directly providing the training and is NOT a University- one could argue that it is not included in the above.

And it has just been announced that Frontline trainees are no longer required to complete the Master’s component, further weakening its credibility as a quality PG education and training for social workers. And it is still not recognised as such outside England.

Emma Lewell-Buck has been asking some PQs about this and getting the usual stone-walling and obfuscating answers

Eg   Emma Lewell-Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 7 February 2019 to Question 216290 on Frontline, how much money has been repaid by participants to (a) Frontline and (b) his Department.

We await reliable information on Frontline retention rates.  The volume of anecdotal information on dissatisfaction with the training, from staff as well as former trainees is growing.  GET IN TOUCH IF YOU CAN ADD TO IT. 

  1. National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS)

Things have gone quiet on this. No mention from what I picked up on on the wasteful use of limited resources on NAAS.  From Parliamentary answers

The government has spent £3.66 million in consulting on and preparing for the introduction of the National Assessment and Accreditation System for children and family social workers.

The government has allocated for phase 1 and phase 2 of the National Accreditation and Assessment System: £2.7 million for the preparation of local authorities and social workers; and £4.86 million for the introduction, operational delivery and evaluation of the assessment.

This total is split £2.7 million for local authorities and £8.52 million for private companies.

Jane Tunstill and I had a useful conversation with Gill Archer who has replaced Matthew Egan at the children’s services UNISON   ‘desk’

I’ve put  the UNISON motion that was passed in 2017 at end of this Newsletter.   But we would really appreciate any info you can give us on NAAS in your area-  both if you are part of the Pilot and also if your agency is pressing staff to become part of it.

 

FINALLY PLANS FOR THE FUTURE OF LSWG

Firstly,  I have less energy than I used to have   would really appreciate offers from LSWG members for getting more involved, at national and/or local level.  I have lists of members in the dfferent areas.

AND I’D REALLY APPRECIATE contact from anyone who might consider taking over as CHAIR.  Not onerous- depends on how much the Chair is able to commit to it  (not a lot from me over last 12 months)

Agenda for next year

Keeping up with what is going on in Parliament and local government

VERY IMPORTANTLY  THE LABOUR PARTY MANIFESTO

Our group started in 2015 because of the very poor references to social work in the Manifesto of that year

We should start work now if we want to influence the next Manifesto. 

Already starting with the above on Adult Social Work and Social Care

 

BUT what will we want in there re Child and Family Social Work and community services

AND social work education

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Composite A (Motions 10 and 11) – “Say No” to National Assessment and Accreditation

 Carried

 

The Conservative government is planning to introduce an accreditation system for children and family social workers which will undoubtedly put already stretched social workers under even more pressure to meet rising demands on services that protect Children and Young People (CYP).

 

Conference notes: The government has spent £3.66 million in consulting on and preparing for the introduction of the National Assessment and Accreditation System for children and family social workers.

The government has allocated for phase 1 and phase 2 of the National Accreditation and Assessment System: £2.7 million for the preparation of local authorities and social workers; and £4.86 million for the introduction, operational delivery and evaluation of the assessment.

This total is split £2.7 million for local authorities and £8.52 million for private companies

 

 

  • Children’s services are in financial crisis. According to report in Guardian on 8 Aug 2017 councils warn that children’s services are £600m in the red. Social workers have high workloads with increasing referrals;
  • A recent Local Government Association (12/01/18) survey found that a child or young person was referred to CYP services every 49 seconds whilst social workers struggle to cope with unprecedented caseload demands resulting in increased stress and anxiety amongst staff;
  • Branches across the regions are representing record numbers of social workers in disciplinary procedures or in ill health procedures as a direct result of workload pressures and difficulties with wellbeing resulting from stress and associated workplace problems;
  • Social work with children and families urgently needs investment. But instead of putting the services children and families need in place, the government’s response has been to recommend unnecessary tests for social workers in England at a high financial cost;
  • Social workers have overwhelmingly voiced opposition to the National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS) in a UNISON survey; Heather Wakefield, UNISON’s head of local government’s comments about the NAAS:“This ill thought out scheme threatens to make things worse, not better. It doesn’t accurately assess the work staff do, and could prove to be the final straw for many experienced employees, who may vote with their feet and leave;”
  • The government has already significantly reduced the roll out of NAAS following opposition from council leaders, social work managers, social workers and UNISON.

 

Conference believes:

 

  1. The National Assessment and Accreditation System will have a detrimental effect on social workers who have already high case-loads and will lead to individual social workers getting blamed more frequently rather than for lack of service provision due to austerity.
  2. It is a national scandal that this government awarded, in February 2018, a contract to an international consultancy firm and that the cost of this contract for social work accreditation is £3.6 million. Mott Macdonald, a construction company, will develop and roll out the scheme across the pilot authorities.
  3. The previous pilot projects were all criticised by all social work organisations. The scheme up to now is shown to be unworkable. Previous pilot projects showed that there was an in built discrimination against older and ethnic minority social workers.
  4. That investment in social work development is welcomed but should be planned in line with the views of experienced social workers;
  5. That social work development should be part of an ongoing accreditation system that results in recognised qualifications/developmental awards rather than a potentially punitive exercise and that developmental activity should be rewarded with pay progression;
  6. That the Tory government should be focusing resources to local communities and preventative services that have been viciously cut such as children’s centres. This will provide for much better outcomes for children and young people;
  7. That there is a crisis in our social work system, caused by developments like these along with continued austerity. Social workers are continually faced with excessive workloads, reductions in qualified staffing, and cuts in training and professional development;
  8. That social work assessment and accreditation should not be developed by private organisations such as Mott MacDonald or Deloitte rather by organisations dedicated to the profession such as BASW and the Social Work Action Network with close consultation with trade unions that represent social workers in the workplace.

Conference is concerned that £2 million has already been spent with contracts awarded to KPMG and Morning Lane, the company which was co-founded by the chief social worker. The collapse of Carillion and no evidence that private sector provides better outcomes for children means that social work accreditation should not be privatised.

 

Furthermore, this conference believes we should question whether there is a conflict of interest when a contract is awarded to a company the chief social worker has had involvement with.

 

The Association of Directors for Children’s Services had previously estimated a full national roll out of accreditation would cost £23 million.

 

Conference asks the local government service group executive to:

 

  1. Oppose the introduction of NAAS at national and local level;
  2. Organise a campaign amongst the local authorities UNISON branches involved in the first and second phases;
  • Organise forums of members directly affected seeking the support of other social work organisations.
  1. Use all avenues to explore why is so much money going to private companies not related to social work when the money could be going to front line services;
  2. Re-state social work best practice is best monitored through supervision and local authority procedures. Local authorities understand the local needs within their population;
  3. Challenge the DfE to introduce targets for restricted caseloads and regular reflective supervision which social workers, judges, academics and others have identified in numerous research documents, legal judgements and serious case reviews this is evidenced as supporting social workers to assess and manage risk and effectively support children and young people. It is also crucial to the development of social workers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Costs of outsourcing and NAAS: Is this £11.22m committed to the National Accreditation and Assessment scheme the best way to spend scarce DfE resources? (£8.52m of it gong to the private sector and only £2.7 m going to a very small group of LAs to do in any case what a UNISON and BASW surveys conclude social workers think will do more harm than good

Answers to a Parliamentary Question by Emma Lewell-Buck MP  Dec 2017

There are currently two independent trusts established with support from this department: the Doncaster Children’s Service Trust (established in October 2014) and Slough Children’s Services Trust (established in September 2015). The department paid £2.9 million and £3.3 million towards set up costs for Doncaster and Slough respectively.

Sunderland County Council established a community interest company, Together for Children, in April 2017. The department’s contribution to the set up costs for this company was £2.5 million.

‘Achieving for Children’ (AfC) is also a community interest company that was established in 2014 to provide services for Richmond and Kingston. It was established independently from the department and we did not contribute to its set up. AfC receive money through the Partners In Practice programme and has recently expanded into a third local authority (Windsor and Maidenhead).

The department does not hold information on the value of private sector contracts for children’s social care. Local authority expenditure data on private provision on children’s social care are published annually in the statistical first releases available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-local-authority-school-finance-data.

Private provision is defined as expenditure on services provided/managed by private sector entities such as profit-making companies.

The department does not hold information on the number of contracts with private sector companies to provide children’s social care services.

 

The government has spent £3.66 million in consulting on and preparing for the introduction of the National Assessment and Accreditation System for children and family social workers.

The government has allocated for phase 1 and phase 2 of the National Accreditation and Assessment System: £2.7 million for the preparation of local authorities and social workers; and £4.86 million for the introduction, operational delivery and evaluation of the assessment.

This total is split £2.7 million for local authorities and £8.52 million for private companies

 

 

 

 

 

Newsletter April 2018

Labour Social Work Group Members’ and Supporters’ Newsletter April 2018

Following on from our successful meetings in Westminster in November 2017 this has been a quiet period for the group, although much has been happening with respect to Social Work across the age and needs groups.

  1. Social Work England Although consultation is continuing on the detailed Regulations for the new regulator, planned to be up and running in 2019 having taken over from HCPC, the Chair of the Board has been appointed. He is Professor Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford a former mental health social worker and academic and now a Labour peer. I have written on behalf of the group to congratulate him and offer any help members of LSWG can give and received a warm reply.
  2. Discussions about integrating health and care services (mainly concerning physical care for the elderly, and with very little mention of social work and the social aspects of care) rumble on but concrete details are sparse. Members may be aware of more detailed moves with the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs ) and ICPs (Integrated Care Plans) in their areas. See https://www.england.nhs.uk/systemchange/   If you are aware of any of these that have a real grasp of where social work services might fit, or if you are involved in such plans and able to speak to what arrangements are needed for social work to play its key role, PLEASE get in touch . Meanwhile LGA and ADASS continue to draw attention to the massive funding gap for local authority adult social work and social care services. https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/lga-responds-announcement-multi-year-funding-plan-nhs
  3. With respect to Child and Family social work, DfE continues to be highly active with inquiries and consultations including – the Narey and Owers ‘foster care stock take’ which received a generally unfavourable reception, failing, amongst other things, to address the shocking facts emerging about the large amount of funding being taken out of local authority children’s services to pay the shareholder profits of the large private sector companies. The Education Select Committee report on foster care was more nuanced but still failed to pin down the key issues around ensuring appropriate financial and other support for foster carers and ensuring there is an adequate number of the different sorts of foster carers to meet the differing neds so that there can be greater opportunities for careful matching.
  4. The DfE-funded ‘Innovations’ programme continues to disperse funds in a piecemeal way to authorities that can make a case for additional funding for a particular (DfE-approved) approach, whilst starving the majority of local authorities of the essential funds (the latest LGA report is included on the website ) see joint letter to the minister https://www.local.gov.uk/about/campaigns/bright-futures/bright-futures-childrens-services/close-childrens-services-funding
  5. “Councils are deeply committed to supporting children and young people, but the services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on are at serious risk due to rising demand and unprecedented funding pressures. Simply put, children’s services are at a tipping point. Government has to take immediate action and provide the funding we need to deliver the support our children deserve.” Cllr Richard Watts, Chair, LGA Children and Young People Board
  6. Researchers under the leadership of Paul Bywaters meanwhile provide incontrovertible evidence of the relationship between child and family poverty, having a child protection plan, and coming into care.

 

LSWG Activities

1 Our contacts with Labour MPs and Lords tend to be ‘behind the scenes’ (and most members work with other ‘hats’ on eg BASW, or as Trades Union members) but we have continued to suggest Parliamentary Questions. Amongst these, an interesting answer to a PQ from Emma Lewell-Buck was about the costs of the NAAS (National Accreditation and Assessment Scheme

The government has spent £3.66 million in consulting on and preparing for the introduction of the National Assessment and Accreditation System for children and family social workers.

‘The government has allocated for phase 1 and phase 2 of the National Accreditation and Assessment System: £2.7 million for the preparation of local authorities and social workers; and £4.86 million for the introduction, operational delivery and evaluation of the assessment.

This total is split £2.7 million for local authorities and £8.52 million for private companies’

Among other interesting PQ answers are

‘There are currently two independent trusts established with support from this department: the Doncaster Children’s Service Trust (established in October 2014) and Slough Children’s Services Trust (established in September 2015). The department paid £2.9 million and £3.3 million towards set up costs for Doncaster and Slough respectively.

Sunderland County Council established a community interest company, Together for Children, in April 2017. The department’s contribution to the set up costs for this company was £2.5 million.

‘Achieving for Children’ (AfC) is also a community interest company that was established in 2014 to provide services for Richmond and Kingston. It was established independently from the department and we did not contribute to its set up. AfC receive money through the Partners In Practice programme and has recently expanded into a third local authority (Windsor and Maidenhead).’

  1. We continue, to date without success, to ask members of the Labour Shadow team across the areas that are relevant to social work (DfE, Health, DCLG/Housing, Home Office, Justice) if we can meet with them as a group to explore relevant social work issues in the round.
  2. As Chair of LSWG I was invited to attend a meeting at Labour Headquarters of Friends and Member-led groups to discuss our contribution to the Labour Party Democracy Review https://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/labour-party-democracy-review-some-background/

It proved a good opportunity to talk with other small member-led and friends groups, and especially to make contact with the coordinator of the Labour Mental Health group. I subsequently responded via the web-site consultation on behalf of the LSWG to the democracy review.

The future – a plea for help and group member involvement

  • URGENTLY we need to respond to the Policy Review as individuals and as LSWGThe way this has been set up is profoundly unhelpful for a response on social work issues. Social work and services to those we aim to help could come under 6 of the 8 subject headings, though most directly: protecting: Towards an National Education Service (which is mainly about schools but included ‘early years’; Protection our communities and turning lives around; and giving people the power to shape their local communities  

 

 

 

Having read through these I found very few specific paragraphs where is was possible to comment specifically on social work

Please get in touch if you are able to lead on putting together a LSWG response on any of these and PLEASE respond as individuals and let me know if you have so that I can follow up with a supporting comment.

  • We did talk at our last meeting about linking up in local groups around local and national issues. We have members in the following regions: London: Norfolk/ Suffolk/ Essex/ Cambs; West midlands; North West; North East. If there are any volunteers to make links across members in these areas, please get in touch and I will pass on the emails of group members in your area.
  • Labour Conference 23-26 Sept 2018. Liverpool. Funds don’t stretch to paying conference fees, but if you are going, let me know if you would be willing to give a presence to LSWG.   It may be possible for us to join into a Fringe event. Further in the future I think we should definitely plan to have a presence at the Labour Local Government Conference (around Feb 2019 – let me know if you would be interested in helping with this.
  • I’ll give it another 18 months Chair but would like to start handing over. Any expressions of interest gratefully received.

 

FINALLY AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, BECAUSE OF NEW DATA PROTECTION LEGISLATION, WE WILL SHORTLY BE SENDING YOU A FORM TO COMPLETE IF YOU ARE IN AGREEMENT TO HAVING YOUR SETAILS ON A LIST OF MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS TO BE KEPT BY THE LSWG HON SECRETARY.

DO PLEASE FILL IT IN. YOUR MEMBERSHIP IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO THE VIABILITY OF THE GROUP.

With all good wishes to LSWG members as we move towards the local elections

 

June Thoburn

Chair LSWG

 

 

 

 

 

LSWG open meeting with parliamentarians November 2017

Notes from Labour Social Work Group Discussion Meeting held in House of Commons, Committee Room 5  7 November 2017 4-5 pm

Shaping Labour Policy for Social Work after years of Austerity

The meeting was attended by about 35 members and supporters, and hosted by Lord Mike Watson and Tracy Brabin MP- both members of the Labour Shadow Education team. Those present sent their good wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery to Emma Lewell-Buck MP who was planning to sponsor the meeting but was having surgery following a broken wrist.

There were 3 key themes

the impact on services for vulnerable people across the age and needs groups of increasing outsourcing and other ways of delivering public services

Prof Ray Jones led on ‘outsourcing/ privatisation’ and provided the notes included below.  Those at this and the earlier LSWG members’ meeting gave examples of how this is leading to poor morale and increased turnover and early retirement amongst social worker. Lack of continuity of social workers is resulting in a deterioration in services.  Ray Jones’ notes will inform LSWG discussions about what we would like to see in the next Labour Party Manifesto.  Please let June Thoburn have any comments so that we can get on with this work 

–  the impact on social work services and social work education of the introduction of a new regulator Social Work England

Mike Watson and June Thoburn spoke of the way in which LSWG members helped with briefings on this part of the Bill and were successful in ensuring some independence for Social Work England from direct government control.  There was a discussion of how members need to remain vigilant as the civil servants work on details. It was noted that the Government Minister in the Lords specifically committed government to consultation with the profession but that discussions on the appointment of Board members are being conducted in secret.

There was also in this part of the meeting discussion of the waste of scarce resources on the introduction of the National Assessment and Accreditation Scheme (NASS).  Surveys of UNISON and BASW members showing that this will not only waste much needed social worker time and resources for services and CPD programmes, but is likely to result in experienced social workers leaving the profession. Responses to the government consultation to this effect were sent by UNISON and BASW after consultation with their members. The responses to the consultation have still not been published DfE is proceeding with the same scheme, albeit at a slower pace.  UNISON members at the meeting reported on their continuing campaign to stop this being rolled out.

Suggestions for PQs from members, and information about areas of conflict/ disagreement as these discussions go forward, will be welcomed by the Education and Health Shadow teams in Lords and Commons.

–  the increasing evidence of the impact of austerity on the life-chances of vulnerable children and families.

Tracy Brabin introduced this discussion, referring particularly to the problems she is seeing in her constituency work and also in her discussions with Kirklees council struggling with the massive cuts over the last 15 years.  She has the Shadow Cabinet role for early years services and is especially interested to learn how decisions are being made by local councils on Sure Start Children’s Centres.  Emma Corlett, a Norfolk County Councillor told of her concerns that the idea is being floated of using ‘Social Impact Bonds’ as a way of funding Sure Start Centres that are under threat. She will contact Tracy directly, as will LSWG member Prof Jane Tunstill, on the importance of social worker attachments to children’s centres.

Suggested PQs and briefing notes welcome

Kate Morris gave factual (and deeply worrying) information from recent research about the link between living in a deprived area and increased likelihood of children needing to come into care.  (notes and references to follow). KM will contact Tracy Brabin directly.

There was a discussion amongst those present of the impact of cuts in social security payments, and increased homelessness and mental health problems on the increased referrals for a social work service at a time when social work recruitment and retention is struggling. In particular, the need for Labour to work to prevent the total withdrawal of the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) which will inevitably result in poorer areas having services which are even more under-funded.

Those at the meeting said they would send any further information, especially on Sure Start and potential impact of withdrawal of RSG directly to Tracy Brabin.

Notes from Ray Jones   THE ROAD TO PRIVATISATION FOR CHILDREN’S SOCIAL WORK, SOCIAL SERVICES and CHILD PROTECTION

  1. The New Labour introduction of independent social work practices in 2006.
  2. The coalition government’s two changes in statutory regulation in 2014.
  3. The Autumn 2014 meetings at the DfE
  4. Mr Cameron’s ‘new market insurgents’ and ‘academisation’ speeches.
  5. The government’s –defeated- intentions in the Children and Social Work Bill to set aside statutory responsibilities and rights.
  6. Theresa May’s government’s refusal to reverse or revise the 2014 statutory regulation changes.
  7. The long-delayed publication of the LaingBuisson report on creating a children’s social work market place.
  8. The increasing interests of venture capitalists and hedge funds in the ‘children’s social services industry’.

WHAT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED

  1. The Trojan horse of the forced and coerced movement of statutory children’s social work outside of direct local authority provision – with added complexity and costs, and time-delays in addressing concerns and generating improvement.
  2. The implosion of the children’s social work workforce and the growth of private profit-making social worker recruitment agencies.
  3. The dominance of profit-making children’s residential care and foster care companies.
  4. The undermining of the voluntary sector.

 

THE CONSEQUENCES

  1. The large sums of money now going out of services as profit taken by private companies.
  2. The downward movement in quality – and qualifications, skills and terms and conditions of workers – as companies seek to cut bottom-line costs to generate more profit.
  3. The statutory requirement that companies first and primary responsibility and accountability is to their owners/ shareholders and not to the public or community.
  4. The control by management accountants rather than by professionals experienced in and committed to the services.
  5. The additional costs incurred by central and local government in setting up, letting and managing contracts.
  6. The increasingly complexity and confusion of accountability for services between contractors and contractees.
  7. The selling on of contracts when companies are taken over or merge and where ownership becomes even more opaque.
  8. The lack of transparency and openess when services are provided by commercial companies with no responsibilities for freedom of information and public reporting but can hide behind commercial confidentiality.
  9. The prevalence of management consultants from the big international accountancy firms.

LSWG members’ meeting November 2017

Notes of Labour Social Work Group Members’ Meeting held 7 November 3-4pm in Room 2 Westminster Hall, followed by a discussion meeting in House of Commons Committee Room 5

  • June Thoburn welcomed the 25 members present, and noted that in addition 8 other members who could not make this meeting (because of change to earlier time) will be at the discussion meeting to follow. Apologies for absence had been received from 15 members, including LSWG Patron Baroness Hilary Armstrong, Vice Chair Bill Esterson and Hon Secretary Sam Earl. She noted that attenders/ those sending apologies for absence were from across England and N Ireland.
  • She thanked Emma Lewell-Buck MP and her recently appointed researcher Abbie Sparrow for sponsoring and arranging rooms for the two meetings and explained that Emma was unable to attend as sponsor as she has sustained a serious wrist injury and had an operation the next day. Those present sent their best wishes to her for a full and speedy recovery.

 

  • Chair’s report

    – June reported that there are now just over 200 names on the mailing
    list, 170 of whom are members and the others ‘supporters’ (mainly people whose job descriptions mean that they do not wish to be associated with a political party).  40 of those on the list are Parliamentarians, and there has been contact with 20 of these over the past 18 months (including providing briefings for debates and parliamentary committees).
    –  Website-  563 Views  268 visits
    –  Twitter  814 Followers  Following 573 (especial thanks to regular tweeters and Jane Tunstill, Rob Murphy, Helen Wood, Steph Gee and tweeter  ‘Ermintrude’ who have contributed to website).  More contributions to website would be very welcome.
    – Since the last national meeting 20 months ago  members of the LSWG have:

  • Submitted evidence to the Labour Policy Forum (on website)
  • Prepared and sent to relevant Shadow ministers comments on the Draft Labour Manifesto for 2017 General Election.  This had a part to play in Labour’s specific support for Frontline in 2015 Manifesto being dropped and replaced by a statement that a Labour Government will support adequate funding for all routes into social work.  However, contrary to views expressed by most social workers (and passed on by Chair to a Labour consultation meeting on this) Labour’s support for Mandatory Reporting of child abuse remained in the Manifesto.
  • Members have met with UNISON Labour Link, especially re UNISON’s policy to oppose the introduction of NAAS (National Assessment and Accreditation System).
  • LSWG and members as individuals worked (successfully) with Article 39 and others to provide briefings to parliamentarians to ensure that the parts of the Education and Social Work Bill that would have diminished children’s rights were dropped.
  • Provided briefings on regulation of social work and social work education for Labour Parliamentarians (especially Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Lord Watson, Lord Hunt, Baroness Pitkeathley who led for Labour in Lords and Commons) on Children and Social Work Bill- especially urging successfully for the  Social Work England not to be directly under Government control.
  • Suggested PQs for parliamentarians on a range of social work and social services issues and responded to specific questions.
  • Contacts made with several of the newer intakes of Labour MPs. At least 2 have backgrounds in social work.  Information about the group has been sent recently to 6 MPs known to have spoken on social work related issues.
  • On the disappointing side, these activities (apart from Social Work Regulation) have centred on child and family social work and services. One problem has been that with all the changes in the Shadow Cabinet, it has been difficult to establish links. Meetings with Luciana Berger re mental health and correspondence with Sarah Champion were helpful but these no longer have a Shadow Cabinet role.  Efforts continue to make contact with Health Shadows but (apart from with Lord Hunt over social work regulation) these have not been successful to date. However the Social Care Shadow, Barbara Keeley sent her apologies for not being able to make the discussion meeting and links have been established with her Office.  A meeting is planned with Yvonne Fovargue MP (in the Labour shadow DCLG team) who sent her apologies for the discussion meeting to discuss issues around local government duties with respect to social care services across needs groups.

Hon Treasurer’s Report

  • Jackie Mitchell reported that a Bank Account has now been set up with Coop Bank and, after payment of the web-site name registration there is just under £100 in the account. There was a discussion as to whether the LSWG should have a more formal approach to membership, signalled by a membership fee rather than a request for donations. Jackie Mitchell, Pan Trevithick, Jo Warner and June Thoburn agreed to be in touch to see how this could be achieved in as inclusive way as possible and report back to members. There was some discussion about how any income could be used, in addition to the website.  Suggestions included assistance to those with limited income to attend meetings and having a presence at next Labour Conference and/or Labour Local Government Conference (For the moment, donations (cheques) of £5-£10 welcome (to Jackie Mitchell 3 Victoria St, Norwich NR13QX.

Appointment of Honorary Officers

  • All four Hon Officers are willing to serve for another year and this was unanimously agreed by members
  • Pam Trvithick agreed to be Membership Secretary and this offer was warmly accepted
  • In order to maximise wider awareness of LSWG, it was agreed to expand the number of patrons. The contribution of Baroness Armstrong in providing  a valuable link with the House of Lords is much appreciated, and it would be good to build on this. It was agreed members would communicate suggested names to the Chair – including but not necessarily parliamentarians.

Discussion

There was a lively discussion with positive suggestions and offers of help on
–     Labour’s policy for social work and social care services, whilst in opposition and to be included in a Manifesto for government

  • How best to improve the viability, membership and impact of the group.

Key areas for the group to work on were

– opposition nationally and locally to outsourcing of social work services –  including supporting members whose areas are having these ‘new models’ of service provision forced on them.  As noted above, links have already been made with a Shadow cabinet member of the DCLG team.  JT will get a date and then see which members can make that date.

  • Importance of covering the whole area of social work practice- including mental health, the elderly and working age adults/ disability as well as continuing to work on child and family issues.
  • With others, keep a close eye on how the new registrar Social Work England is set up and proposals for registration of social workers and accreditation of social work education. Try to ensure that social workers are members of the Social Work England Board and involved in appointment of key staff.
  • Re ways of improving the impact of the LSWG, following this meeting it may be possible to identify members working in particular areas (South West, West Midlands, North West, North East, East Anglia are possibilities)  to engage local labour MPs and Councillors and perhaps join with other groups (eg BASW, SWAN, UNISON) and provide briefings on local issues.

The lively discussion was curtailed by need to move on to Discussion Meeting.

A Socialist View of Social Work (around 1964)

The attached was produced by the Social Workers’ Group of the Socialist Medical Association around 1964.

Interesting how the same issues recur, and despite huge contextual changes, how the essence of social work can be tracked from Clement Attlee’s vision through this to what LSWG has to say now. Click here for the link to the PDF of the article Socialist MA on Social Work

 

Continue reading

Staying close needed now: blog by LSWG member Stephanie Gee

 

 

Children in Care Should Be Allowed to ‘Stay Put’ Instead of Being Evicted at 18

by Stephanie Gee

When Daniel* was 17, he was told he had to prepare to leave the children’s home he had lived in since he was 11. He had no support from his family and little from his friends, yet he was told that in a few months time he would essentially be evicted and forced to live alone.

“I was worried about the loneliness; I was used to staff around me 24/7,” he says, adding that in desperation he even went to visit his mother, who had not been able to look after him growing up, to see if she had a spare room — “as if she was capable of giving me anything”.

In the UK, young people in residential children’s homes have to leave when they reach 18, whether they are ready or not. This can be extremely distressing to vulnerable teenagers and can permanently damage their future prospects.
It is also inconsistent: since 2014, children in foster care have been allowed to ‘stay put’ until they are 21.

On the day he left his children’s home, Daniel refused to move into his new accommodation. Instead, he went to stay on the sofa of another young person who he knew from care. He was destabilised by the move. He lost his college placement and spent his savings on drugs and alcohol. Prior to leaving the children’s home, he had not got drunk or high for more than two years. “I’d have given anything to stay [in care],” he says, “things are better now, but I’d have given anything to go back.”

There is a growing campaign emerging to extend the right to ‘stay put’ to young people who want to remain in children’s homes for an extra three years. A small proviso in the Labour party manifesto would have made this a reality, had Jeremy Corbyn won the election in June. But since the vote, children’s social care has been buried amid political turmoil. When children’s policies do make headlines, it is simple things like free childcare and school meals that capture the public imagination.

The Tory two-year agenda, outlined in the queen’s speech, signals no changes to children’s social care – despite the fact that local services are reaching crisis point.

There are many reasons why change is required. Children who live in residential care are some of the most vulnerable in society. They may have suffered incredible trauma and abuse. The Children’s Commissioner recently referred to them as ‘pinball kids’ because so many have moved from foster placement to placement before ending up in a children’s home because families cannot cope with their complex needs.

Maintaining their residential placements, even with 24-hour specialist therapeutic support, can be a challenge. However, at 18 they are expected to move into their own accommodation and survive. Leaving care can lead to loneliness and isolation. This is exacerbated by inappropriate housing, poor support, poor social and emotional development and poor practical skills.

Laura* had lived in a ‘therapeutic residential children’s home’ where there was a counsellor on hand to provide emotional and behavioural support. “I was a total pain to the staff, but they didn’t give up,” she says. “My therapist kept on trying to help me no matter what I said – I said some awful things to her. It was starting to sink in, I was even in full time school.”

But she says the withdrawal of this support at 18 destroyed her. “When I left it fell apart. I think I went nuts. I couldn’t look after myself. I didn’t want to look after myself.”

Research shows that care leavers are more vulnerable to offending behaviour. In England and Wales, looked after teenagers are nearly 20 times more likely to be criminalised than their non-looked after counterparts. Children who have been in care are disproportionally represented in the prison population, in the mental health system and within homelessness statistics. In February, the BBC published an article stating that young people who have grown up in care are far more likely to die in early adulthood than other young people.

For young people to succeed when leaving care, they need longer to prepare and more support. At the moment, children’s homes are having to focus on independent living skills in preparation for a stark transition out of care, when the focus should still be on achieving some emotional and behavioural stability.

The number of children coming into care is increasing year on year, which means those leaving care is also increasing. ‘Staying put’ would provide support in a familiar environment, supported by familiar staff at a time when young people are coping with many other challenges in their lives, whether that is finding employment or starting college or university.

We need policies that work and provide the right support options for young people. The chance to remain in their placement until they are ready, should be one of those options. We need to continue to apply pressure, to keep this on the agenda, and seek the support of MP’s across all parties until we get leaving care right for young people. Extending ‘staying put’ is part of the solution.

“I’ve got more problems than most people, sometimes I can’t even think straight, yet I felt I was left to it at 18,” Laura says. “I was not this perfect kid in care but I feel like I am much worse now. I was on track… I felt like I could have got better quicker if I could have stayed longer.”

If you want to help, please contact your MP. Also, sign the petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/equality-of-leaving-age-for-all-children-in-care

*names have been changed