Labour Social Work Group
Minutes of AGM held virtually on 22 June 2021 5.15-6.45
Chair Helen Woods LSWG Vice-Chair (HW)
- Welcome and apologies
There were 20 attenders (listed below). Apologies were received from 22 members/supporters, mostly expressing willingness to be involved and giving ideas on how the LSWG might work in the future. The Chair welcomed familiar faces and new members. A particular welcome was given to Lord Michael Watson and Steve McCabe MP and thanks for their support and advice to the group over the past several years. It was noted and welcomed that there was a broader spread of members’ areas of social work practice and expertise, with more representation for mental health and adult social work.
- Appointment of new Co-Chairs
June Thoburn (JT) informed the meeting that Prof Sam Baron was reluctantly resigning as Chair due to taking on heavy workload as Faculty head at the OU, but that she wished to remain on the Committee. HW and JT both thanked Sam for her work for the group in difficult circumstances.
The Chair sought agreement for LSWG Chair to be a shared role and said there were two nominations for the role of Co-Chair- (details previously circulated and attached).
Anne Cullen Proposed Helen Wood Seconded June Thoburn
Tony Evans Proposed June Thoburn, Seconded Alisoun Milne
There were no further nominations and Anne (AC) and Tony (TE) were appointed as Co-Chairs.
Tony had previously given his apologies as he had a prior unavoidable work commitment. Anne told us a little more about her background in social work and her active role within her CLP and some preliminary thoughts about how she saw LSWG developing
- To confirm the appointment of Helen Woods as Vice Chair and June Thoburn as Hon Sec for a further 2 year period This was agreed and also that HW and JT would continue to lead the work on child and family social work, with Tony and Anne working with Alisoun Milne and Sam Baron on adult social work generally, social work with older people and mental health (with Rob Murphy continuing his lead role on mental health social work).
- Committee nominations: At Committee meetings during the year it was agreed that LSWG could be more effective if it made alliances with other Labour interest groups with social care/ health/ education/justice focus and with the public sector unions, especially Unison. Sue Taplin (ST) has agreed to take on this role and to be a member of Committee.
The very poor state of the Website has also been commented on and Vicky Hart (VH) has agreed to take on the role of Website coordinator. Sue and Vicky gave some information about their backgrounds within social work and Labour and on how they might progress these important aspects of the LSWG’s work. Members will be hearing more from them.
- Finance report JT reminded members that we have had a vacancy for Treasurer for 18 months since Jackie Mitchell resigned. JT thanked Jackie (who was at the meeting and retains he interest in the work of the group) for nominally ‘hanging onto’ the account. It makes sense for AC and TE as Co- Chairs to find a way of filling this vacancy and transferring the bank account to somewhere nearer to them. In meantime, the account is in credit – £226. Apart from paying for website of £15 the only other activity in past 12 months has been a donation of £10. The matter of subs/ donations will be on Agenda for the Committee
- Overview of activities since last meeting
a) JT reported that there are 160 members/supporters on the mailing list. (8 new members over last 12 month and 3 resignations- all due to retirement/ change of role) This number includes 12 parliamentarians with whom we have positive contacts – of whom four are former social workers. (Steve McCabe (at meeting) and Emma Lewell-Buck (sent apologies) regularly speak in the House using their experience as social workers- new-ish members with a social work background who have expressed support for the group are Preet Kaur Gill MP and Janet Daby MP) (if anyone knows of other former social workers (in Lords or Commons, please let JT Know).
JT summarised activities, other than the 2 main agenda items to follow. Despite attempts from various angles she has not succeeded on getting the LSWG back on Labour Central Office Website in the Labour Groups section. Efforts continuing and members at meeting agreed this is important, especially a contact for VH as new ‘website lead’ will be needed.
JT reported that most activity had focused on national policy and links with parliamentarians. There had been a very positive meeting facilitated by Gill Archer of UNISON, (at this meeting) with Labour LGA and a further meeting is planned- around the threats posed by Tory policies to Local Authority adults and children and family social services. ST will pick up these links with Gill.
There was a discussion of how the group might best have an impact on Labour Policy making processes-eg would seeking Affiliated group status be appropriate (conclusion was that a lot of effort, probably unsuccessful, and not a lot of gain. Better to urge members to work through CLPs and other Labour policy-making groups).
b) Links with Unions, Labour LGA, Other allied Labour groups. This issue had already come up with the offer of ST to lead on links with other groups. There was a good discussion about how we might get social work and social care onto the agendas of constituency parties, and Labour Party regions – eg contact with constituency MPs and candidates, and also Labour Mayors and PCCs. A very helpful suggestion is that a member/ small group might work on a short briefing paper with ‘speaker notes’ and ‘key facts’, to inform members about what social workers do, the skills needed etc. Something for Committee to take up. A very draft possible motion is below- not discussed at this meeting but as a prompt for taking this forward.
c) Briefing and contact with MPs re Adult social services. Alisoun Milne summarised the work of the small group that led to the briefing (attached again for ease of access) on a Labour policy for social work and social care with adults. This has been sent to Labour Shadow Health and Social Care team and DHCLG team. No response received as yet – further action needed as with previous item to seek to ensure that party members as well as Shadow team are aware that social work and social care are not synonymous.
d) Briefing and contact with MPs re child and family services including responses to Children’s Social care review JT reported on the work to prepare the LSWG Briefing paper on a Labour Child and Family social work and social care services (previously circulated but attached for ease of reference) and a meeting of 8 LSWG members to discuss it with Labour Shadow Children and families team (Kate Green, Tulio Siddiq, and Mike Watson). Although the concerns of LSWG members about the DfE’s Care Review were raised (meeting was just after Mr MacAlister had been appointed to lead the review). The focus was on the importance of Labour developing its own policy rather than reacting to what will essentially be Tory proposals. There was a mutually probing discussion and agreement to continuing links between LSWG and the Shadow team Some PQs were suggested by the LSWG members have been asked and brought out more clarification about the review. These links will continue as the intended direction of travel for government policy following the review becomes clear.
- Plan for Autumn Meeting – The meeting agreed with the suggestion from the LSWG Committee that an Open meeting in the Autumn should be arranged –(possibly ‘hybrid’ with some joining virtually if that can be arranged without too much difficulty). Ideas from members about Labour speaker and subject are invited.
- There was a lively and positive discussion on all the above, with constructive proposals and offers to help in taking forward suggestions. Whilst improved understanding of the work of social workers within public policy is essential, it was agreed that focusing on the hardships, needs and rights to quality services of those who social workers assist, in many different ways, is likely to be the best approach.
- AOB. Members sending apologies for absence, especially those in full time employment, found the timing of this meeting difficult. Committee will discuss timing of future meetings. A member offered to set up a ‘Doodle Poll’ to help with this.
Gill Archer, Anne Cullen, Owen Davies, Karen Goodman, Linda de Chenu, Lorna Fielker,
Sarah Fitzgerald, Vicky Hart, Russell Hogarth, Steve McCabe MP, Alisoun Milne, Jackie Mitchell, Rob Murphy, Richard Servian, Jonathan Stanley, June Thoburn, Sue Taplin, Jo Warner,
Lord Michael Watson, Helen Woods
Suggestion of a possible CLP motion (very Draft) highlighting the fragmentation of Labour’s policy processes as they concern adults and children across needs groups
To require the Labour Party to adopt an internally coherent leadership and structure with respect to statutory services delivered by Local Authority and voluntary sector social workers, including coordination where Labour Party policy and Shadow teams overlap, This is essential to ensure the most vulnerable in our communities (across age groups, abilities and needs) are at the heart of policies of a Labour’s government and for Labour to effectively challenge and hold this government to account. This process should have those experiencing and delivering social work and social care services at the heart of policy and planning (and drawing on the briefing papers submitted to Shadow ministers by Labour Social Work Group)