Labour urged to include social work in Manifesto plans

Social Workers Union (SWU) Campaign Fund

The Labour Party leadership has been urged to look again at its plans for Government after it was revealed that social workers do not get a single mention in the 86-page “National Policy Forum” report.

The profession also received just a handful of references in a 64-page Fabian Society blueprint for a National Care Service, which was requested by Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting MP.

Social work leaders had previously written to Wes Streeting, Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson MP and National Policy Forum Chair Anneliese Dodds MP, urging them to include reform of social work bursaries for students in the manifesto.

Students on social work courses are required to 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, the funding for them has been cut in real terms and numbers have been capped at the same numbers (1,500 postgraduate and 2,500 undergraduate) since 2013. Over 350 students have signed an open letter to the Secretaries of State for Health and Education calling for reform to social work bursary programmes in England so far.

In a follow up letter requesting a meeting with politicians, the Social Workers Union also asked shadow ministers to think again about the omission of social workers from the manifesto. 

In the letter, SWU General Secretary John McGowan writes “we were also disappointed not to see a single mention of the vital role social workers play in the National Policy Forum Final Year Policy Documents. We would urge party policy makers to address this situation.”

The letter suggests several amendments1 to the policy documents which are also supported by the Labour Social Work Group. 

Members of the Labour Social Work Group, working through their Constituency Labour Parties, have expressed similar concerns, especially with respect to the crisis in bursaries and to the lack of mention of the role of Local Authority social workers in the proposed National Care Service roadmap.

[1] Proposed amendments
  • p27, line 9: “We will start by establishing a new Fair Pay Agreement in the adult and children’s social care sectors.”
  • p57, line 6: “our priority will be that care workers, and social workers employed in Adult Social Care, receive the pay, the conditions and the training they need to provide great care and to stay working in the sector.” 
  • p57, line 28: “will address issues in the social care workforce, including the crisis in recruiting and retaining qualified social workers…
  • p61, line 26: to add “Labour will reform this broken system, to include fair student bursaries on key courses which include in-work frontline placements such as social work, ensuring…”