Chair’s newsletter April 2017






 Chair’s update April 2017

Apologies for being out of contact for so long.  NOT lack of activity, but so much has been happening that has relevance to social work in children’s or adult services that it has been hard to keep up.  And no doubt in your different roles you have been struggling with the speed and volume of change too (and that is without mentioning the follow up to BREXIT). But here is a summary of activities and plans for the rest of the year.

  1. Funding the group Let’s get this one out of the way. Those who managed to get to the first General Meeting held in London (notes of meeting March 21, 2016 on website) agreed that ‘our needs are small, but donations would be sought to fund the website, meeting placards, and fares for students/ service users to attend meetings. After various complications the group now has an account with the Co-operative Bank. So if you felt able to spare £5 or £10 that would be a great help. We can’t handle anything more complicated than a cheque  – made payable to  Labour Social Work Group  and sent to  Jackie Mitchell, 3 Victoria St, Norwich  NR1 3QXor cash at a meeting or when you see one of us.  We will of course send a receipt or acknowledge by email, whichever you prefer- if the former, don’t forget to give us a postal address.


  1. Now to more important things.

Labour Policy Forum submissions May-June 2016
Several members responded to the request to contribute to LSWG submissions.  The Priority Areas last year were Mental Health and Early years/ Early help so some of the contributions (on broader family support for all age groups, children in care, and on adolescents/young people – including leaving care, and vulnerability to criminalisation or sexual exploitation) were too detailed to include, but were stored in hope that these will become priority areas. Submissions were made to each of the priority areas – and a general one on child and family social work pointing out that mental health and disability are relevant across the age groups. Rob Murphy and I had a meeting with Lucina Berger on mental health social work issues just before the parliamentary recess.  Regrettably, there is no longer a named Cabinet level minister nor shadow minister specifically for mental health.
Our four contributions from 2016 are on the website



  1. The Summer months of 2016 were difficult for all of us with the leadership election and the Tories making hay whilst labour was preoccupied. Group members as individuals held (and voiced in the media) different views on the leadership,  The committee members agreed that the LSWG would remain neutral.


  1. It was great that MPs who have helped the group in its early stages joined the Labour Shadow team in roles that have social work as part of their remit. (Emma Lewell-Buck as Shadow Children’s Minister: Sharon Hodgson as Shadow Minister for Social Care). Angela Rayner as Children’s Minister has to concentrate most of her energies on schools but is showing a keen interest in social work’s role in helping vulnerable children and families. Lucina Berger is ensuring a high profile on mental health as a member of the Health Committee and Lisa Nandy and Steve McCabe have made some powerful and incisive speeches on social work and children’s issues and vulnerable adults and children. We are pleased that Bill Esterson has agreed to continue as Vice Chair of the group but his Shadow role in the BIS team doesn’t allow him much scope to intervene on children or social work issues at the moment.


  1. The Children and Social Work Bill

    The Bill started off in the Lords before the recess. As individuals and as members of the Labour Social Work Group several of us were active in providing briefings and lobbying as part of the Article 39 led Together for Children alliance as the Bill passed through Lords and Commons stages.  Thanks to some very powerful and incisive speeches by Lords Mike Watson and Philip Hunt leading for Labour with committed and well-informed speeches  by Baronesses Ruth Lister and Jill Pitkeathley and other Labour, Lib Dem and cross benchers or unaligned peers (especially Lords Warner and Ramsbotham) some important changes had been made before the Bill went to the Commons.  The proposal for the new Social Work Regulator (Social Work England) to be directly under the control of the Education Minister was defeated and it will now have more independence than was planned for it (we still don’t know how much so battles still to be engaged in) as a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB). But especially important was the successful amendment to defeat what became known as the ‘innovation clauses’ which would have allowed some local authorities to not implement aspects of primary and secondary children legislation.

    Emma Lewell-Buck and Steve McCabe took up where the Lords left off on the floor of the House and in committee and despite the apparent determination of the Minister to retain the potentially very destructive clauses, won through – the clauses are now not part of the Bill. They and other Labour colleagues on the |Bill committee (Stella Creasy, Thangam Debbonaire, Kate Green and Tulip Siddique) called attention to the many difficulties for social workers delivering services to children and families despite cuts both to welfare and housing services and to social work services. Here is one of the many examples of how Emma managed to cut through the Minister’s verbiage and tell it as it is.

    Notwithstanding the good work being done through the Pause programme, does the Minister accept that the work is rather piecemeal? It is not happening in every local authority. As I said earlier, we should be offering such services to everyone across the board, not just to some people who live in certain local authority areas.
    What happens when this innovation money runs out? Do we just go back to where we were?

    Important contributions were made on the plight of child refugees (the government’s failure to Honour the ‘Dubbs Amendment) but amendments were voted down.  But thanks to the persistence and informed contributions of Labour members improvements were made to provisions for young people in care and leaving care, and especial congratulations to Stella Creasy for her successful leadership of the battle to get Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) included on the curriculum of all schools.

    Especially with respect to the establishment of the new Regulator and changes to social work qualifying and Post Qualifying Education brought in by the Bill, Labour Social Work Group Members will remain vigilant and keep Labour legislators fully briefed.

  2. There are several other parts of the Government agenda for us to keep a watchful eye on. At the moment the introduction of the National Assessment and Accreditation Scheme (NAAS) is a key one.  LSWG is in touch with UNISON and helped with the wording of the important UNISON survey showing that the majority of social workers consider this is a poor use of scarce resources and is likely to harm both the profession and those who need social work services.
  3. We are also keeping an eye on and will be commenting on in our submission to the Policy Forum the expansion of fast-track specialist  routes into social work  (Frontline, Think Ahead – both linked in with Venture Capitalist funding and influence, and Step-up)  (between them set to be 4 out of 10 entrants to training by 2020). We are particularly concerned at the very unequal treatment (financially and in terms of placement availability) of students on mainstream university courses.
    Please let us have your views on the line the group should take on each of these, especially as in the last Labour Party Manifesto, one of the very small number of comments on social work was to support the expansion of Frontline.


  1. On the adult social work front, we have had less success in engaging with Labour shadow team members and promise to try harder in the next little while. The place of social work within integrated health and social care services has received too little attention – though we reproduce on our website the recent paper from the Chief Social Worker for Adults on this. As a feeble excuse, the children agenda has taken up so much time – and it is not irrelevant here that fundamental changes to social work regulation are in a Bill headed ‘Children and Social Work Bill’ and coming out of the Department for Education.   Lord Hunt made an effort to be heard on this point but it is the DfE that is making the running on all these changes.  The group will attempt to focus the attention of MPs on the fact that large sums of government money are going into education for specialist child and family social work at the same time that bursaries and University funding for generic social work training and opportunities for non-graduates to enter social work are being cut. We shall invite Barbara Kealey and Sharon Hodgson (members of Labour’s shadow health team) to our meeting on 17 May and hope to engage the interest  of Jonathan Ashworth (Shadow Health Minister) in the role of social work as services become more integrated and in the Labour Social Work Group.

    Do get in touch if you have contacts with shadow ministers in Health, Housing, DCLG, Work and Pensions as all these have some responsibilities for social work issues.


Looking Ahead


            Plans are afoot to organise a (belated) Annual Meeting and meeting with Labour MPs in Westminster after Easter and before the recess.  STOP PRESS Meeting now arranged for pm of 17 May   More details to follow but get in touch now if you think you may be able to come.

BEFORE THEN  we urgently need comments on our submissions to the Policy Forum. You will find details on the two areas that concern at the urls below.  What the group is trying to do (so far with little success except with the Shadow Education team) is to get the Labour Party to take a serious look at the threats to the social work profession and the vulnerable who need our services across the age and needs groups. Unlike teachers who can lobby the Education team, or doctors, nurses, psychologists who make their views known to the Health ministers,  shadow team responsibility for  social work is fragmented across  education. Health, home office, justice and DCLG ministers and Shadow ministers.


There is a lot of work to be done here, The word ‘social worker’ doesn’t occur once in the policy overview. Might be worth taking a look at the LSWG website where you can find the summary of what I said at Labour Conference Fringe Event in 2015 – and my plea for social work and social care to be recognised as not synonymous.

Look up the summary and consultation questions at



This policy document is much improved from last year as the following quotes shows (clearly Emma Lewell-Buck’s imprint on it. The last Manifesto’s only references to social work were to support Frontline’ and Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse- policies opposed then by the majority of social workers.  It will be important to have Members’ views on whether this is still the case.

Improving children’s social care and safeguarding


‘Children’s social care has been savagely cut by this Conservative Government, the social work sector is being propped up by agency workers, and there are elements of the Children and Social Work Bill which will put a hundred years of child protection legislation at risk by dismantling local authority safeguarding responsibilities. Tory neglect of this area has left children at risk for far too long. Almost three quarters of local authorities’ children’s social services are currently rated less than good and young people that grow up in care are more likely to die an early death than their peers. Tory cuts have meant non-statutory services that many young people rely on have been lost and early help services which have been proven to lead to better outcomes for children have also gone. Children’s social care is in crisis and government attempts to reform the sector have amounted to a Bill which in part would allow local authorities to exempt themselves from child protection duties. Such a move has led former government advisor, ProfessorEileen Munro to conclude that this would pose a “serious danger” to vulnerable children.

Also relevant to social workers and you may want to comment as individuals or want LSWG to comment are:

Housing local government and transport

Justice and Home Affairs

Work, Pensions and Equality



To date we have concentrated on national issues, but do publicise the group in your local area and let us know if we can help in any way with local issues


Sorry this turned out to be rather more lengthy than intended.  Do get in touch with any points, about the local or national situations, pass on details to social work or policy colleagues who would like to join us. AND DO COME ON 17 MAY IF YOU CAN


June Thoburn

Chair Labour Social Work Group

5 April 2017