A Labour agenda for social work – Professor June Thoburn

Here are our ‘opening asks’ for a broad agenda for social work for an incoming Labour government.

Each week we will put meat on the bones of one of our core agenda items. Let us know what you think. The more of you who respond with your own views, the more confident we will be in seeking to get our ideas discussed with senior policy makers in the party. And examples from research, day to day practice, and comments from the people you provide a service to, are especially welcome.

In consulting about and drafting the 2015 Labour Party  Manifesto, major items that concern the majority of voters have to have pride of place.

Social work is a ‘below the surface’ profession for most people until disability or frailty hits them or a shocking event (the death of Peter Connelly or the  distressing reports of child sexual exploitation leap out above the surface for a week or so). From the statements made by  Labour Shadow cabinet members at such times, and in response to Ministerial statements and Coalition initiatives, it is not clear whether or not, behind the scenes, the relevant Shadow teams have been working together to develop a coherent Labour party policy for social work.

Under the Coalition, so much harm has been done to the daily lives of those who need services, at the same time as cuts of around 17% of the social work workforce, alongside decreasing real incomes for the increasingly long hours they work, have made inroads into their ability to join with other public servants to provide adequate responses to increasing levels of deprivation and distress.  Given the extent of risk and need, and the pressures workers are under, it is unsurprising that mistakes have been brought to public attention and required a response from politicians. But little attention is given to the fact that social workers  have succeeded each year  in taking action to place nearly 30,000 children in care each year, who were at risk of being harmed, provided packages of support to many thousands more struggling families, and set up home care packages for many thousands  of elderly or disabled people and their carers.

So we would like to make ourselves useful to the Labour policy makers in the Departments that make decisions that impact on social work services (currently too many of them in my view – Education, Health, Home Office, MoJ, DCLG, DWP, the Cabinet Office all employ social workers or fund social work services).  We will also be available at a local level to Labour councillors and  Labour appointees to Boards and Trusts, when appropriate collaborating with public service colleagues in affiliated groups.

As a starter, let us have your views on a draft 2015 LABOUR MANIFESTO FOR SOCIAL WORK and help us fill in the details around your particular area of  concern or expertise.


  • A Labour government will take urgent steps to repair the damage inflicted by the coalition on the life chances and quality of life of adults and children struggling to get by.
  • A Labour government will value social work as a public service profession, whose members seek creatively to meet the needs of adults and children living through difficult times
  • A Labour government will reestablish coherence to the democratic and participatory structures for providing social work services, combining the best of public, and third sector provision.
  • A Labour government will maximize the funding available to locality-based decision-makers and social work teams, and make standards for employers of social workers mandatory.
  • A Labour government will require all third sector-provided social work and social care services to be registered and inspected and will conduct a thorough review to ensure that OFSTED and CQC systems and inspectors have the confidence and respect of those whose work they are inspecting
  • A Labour government will build on the progress made by the Social Work Task Force to strengthen social work qualifying and post-qualifying education and training, and ensure a fair and adequate funding regime for all social work students

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