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   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.
  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
  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

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.




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.


  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’.


  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.



  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.


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:

*names have been changed



Message to all Labour Social Work Group members and supporters

We had to cancel the National Meeting of the group arranged for May and to be hosted by Emma Lewell-Buck MP because of the election.
We now have a date for after the Party Conference season.
4pm  Tues  7 Nov, Grimmond Room, Portcullis House Westminster
BROAD TOPIC for discussion with parliamentarians
Social Work in times of Austerity     
This is an early notice, so you can save the date. and to let you know the group is still active and will be contacting Labour shadow team members whose brief links them into  social work issues across age and needs groups.
More details to follow, but any thoughts welcome and it would be good to know if, barring ‘stuff happening’ nearer the time, you may plan to come.

Letter on cuts from LSWG member Helen Wood to local press

This letter from a LSWG member who is standing as Labour candidate expresses what many members must feel when their councillors are forced (as with many Labour councillors) to cut essential services, or willingly collude with govt prevailing view: ‘public bad, private good’.

A visit to a Desborough Town Council meeting recently set me thinking about driving. Desborough’s local tax has been increased by the Conservative controlled town council from £19.10 to £95.26 (Band d property over 2 years). In doing so they have jumped into a vehicle which they now appear to be struggling to control.

To some Northamptonshire County Councillors, presiding over an impossible deficit,  the plan to free themselves of direct control of all services must seem quite appealing. Potholes don’t fill themselves. Indeed even the recent attempt by government to push through legislation ‘freeing up’ local authorities from their Child Protection duties, unleashing the potential to ‘innovate’, must have seemed like a good idea to some.  Mercifully,  at the last minute,   government couldn’t agree with itself about that.

I would suggest that such tendencies in our elected representatives, especially in Northamptonshire’s case, are more akin to freeing up the steering wheel and depressing the accelerator. An eccentric minority may think it productive,  but it is incompatible with care of the vulnerable and maintenance of our infrastructure.

When external auditors express almost unheard of criticisms of the County’s finances, and ordinary Desborough residents resort to videoing town council meetings, we have surely to consider that the drivers have lost control.

Now I have every human sympathy with anyone doing a difficult job, but no-one forced these Tories to jump into this vehicle, and it is still going.

As it careers towards goodness knows what, only the electorate can stop it.

Helen Wood

Labour Candidate for Desborough and Surrounding Villages, Northamptonshire County Council Elections, 2017