SWU and BASW call for bursary reform to be included in Labour manifesto

Social Workers Union (SWU) Campaign Fund

Labour party front bench MPs have been urged to make reform of social work student bursaries in England a priority for their General Election manifesto.

Students on social work courses often complete front-line work as part of their courses, helping the most vulnerable in society. This means many social work students face unique levels of financial hardship as they are unable to work part-time while completing their studies.

Despite this, student bursaries for social workers in England are currently distributed unequally and only around one in six students benefit from them as they are limited in number.1 Where bursaries are available, the funding for them has been frozen for over eight years resulting in a real-terms cut in support for many students.2

In addition, bursaries available have been capped at the same numbers (1,500 postgraduate and 2,500 undergraduate) since 2013.3

In a joint letter to Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson MP, and National Policy Forum Chair Anneliese Dodds MP, BASW and SWU argue that if the current Government is not prepared to act on the issues students have raised, Labour must.

In response to questions from Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Health Minister Helen Whately MP said the Government has “no plans” to assess the adequacy of student bursaries in the coming year.

Social work students who want to speak out about their experiences of bursaries in England can email campaigns@swu-union.org.uk to get involved in the campaign.

  1. Undergraduate and postgraduate quota from GovUK bursary guide, table 3 & 4 (accessed 6 April 2023)
  2. NHSBA Annual Reports (compare £59.3m in 2014, table 21 p39 and years following that with £56.3m in 2021, p22)
  3. Community Care 15/03/23 (accessed 6 April 2023)