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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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