Social work students in England call for campaign fund support

Social Workers Union (SWU) Campaign Fund

Social work students in England have secured support from the Social Workers Union Campaign Fund in their call for fairer bursaries.

A group of students wrote to the Government in 2021 calling for fairer funding for bursaries and reform of the application process which has created a postcode lottery across England.

The letter states that “the lack of clear and accurate advice around bursaries, as well as the limited financial support, is creating barrier into social work education.” The students also pointed out that current bursary system is a “post-code lottery system, with all students in some parts of the country being eligible regardless of circumstances, whilst others are assessed based on grades or attendance.Click here to read the letter in full.

While responses from Social Work England were positive, the Government failed to reply to the letter.

Students have now turned to SWU to launch a joint campaign with BASW to demand a response and fairer student funding. More details will be published on the SWU website in the weeks to come.

Sarah Harrison, who is one of the social work students leading the campaign, said:

“As the main earner in a low income family I had to plan my route into social care. I already had a degree so student finance was not really an option. I had researched the bursary and was told that it was not guaranteed so the only option left to me was fast track. I was fortunate that I was selected but so many other people were not as lucky.”

Rebekah Pierre, a Professional Officer for BASW England and lead contact for the BASW England Student & NQSW Group, said:

“At a time of a recruitment crisis in social work, with 8.6% having left the profession in 2020-2021 in England, the government must act quickly to attract and retain practitioners. That must start with action to level up the bursary system for all. In a profession which aspires to be anti-oppressive, it beggars belief that students are prevented from completing – let alone entering – their courses due to policies which are entrenched in austerity. How can social work students be expected to support others, when they themselves are desperately struggling to survive the cost-of-living crisis? Students are the future of social work, and without investing in them, the profession as a whole is put at risk. The time for well-meaning words is over – it is time for politicians to put their money where their mouth is.”

This campaign in England will come after similar activity in Wales saw progress made in the reform of funding and meetings with the relevant Scottish ministers have been secured for later this week.