Emma was delighted to speak at the Social Workers Union Fringe event in Manchester at the end of last month. Prior to becoming an MP Emma was a child protection social worker and a Cabinet member for adult social services in her local authority. She is very proud of her profession and believes it is like no other.
In her speech Emma stated:
“There are over one hundred and forty-three
thousand social workers in England alone. Each of those social workers as your
excellent research undertaken with Bath Spa University showed, are working
above and beyond their contracted hours amounting to an extra sixty-four days
more per year than they are contracted for.
This is a 46-hour week, in a physically,
emotionally and mentally demanding job. It is little wonder that recruitment
and retention rates are so abysmal.
I recall being regularly assaulted, punched,
spat at, needing security escort and being held in victim support services.
Many people in the profession tell me that
things are not getting better; things are getting worse. It is therefore vital
that the Government support and value the profession, but they do not.
The fact is that they, like most politicians
don’t understand the profession and when something is misunderstood, they
revert to type and seek to control and regulate it, such that social work and
in particular child protection social work in England is in a stranglehold of
excessive and debilitating state oversight more so than any other profession.
The problems I faced and what social workers
face now are not of their own doing or by their own design.
It is therefore vital that the Government
support and value the profession, but they do not.
Since 2010 the Government have certainly had
our profession in their sights, children’s services, with their aggressive
focus on reform of social work education, regulation, assessment and
accreditation the clear message has been that the problems are with social
They have further stuck the boot in telling
us that the best of our profession comes from Frontline and Frontline only,
this drive towards what they say is raising the professionalism of children’s
social work has not only led to a more prescriptive and tick box social work,
devaluing that link between social workers and those they support, but it has
also served to aid the Government’s overall agenda to rip the very heart and
soul of social work apart – that political drive for social change.
The Governments whole approach to the crisis
in children’s services is lacking in any cohesive, strategic or joined up
vision and is consumed with short term measures that are not yielding any long-term
positive changes, but so far have cost over sixty million pounds.
The forcing of mainly Labour led Councils
into Trust models that are little more than a rebranding exercise at a cost in
excess of 17 million. The national
assessment and accreditation system proved grossly unpopular, which forced a
U-turn on roll-out, while gifting £23 million to private companies.
The innovation programme has similarly
bestowed £12 million on private consultancies, despite being time-limited and
given only to certain local authorities, it not only pits local authorities
against each other for funding but exacerbates the postcode lottery.
These changes have all took place against a
backdrop of savage and unrelenting austerity, where social workers have
suffered under years of the public sector pay freeze and local Government is
being hollowed out and decimated, the drive from Government is one
ideologically focussed on marketization and profit where everyone and
everything has a price and their real value diminished.
Action for Children recently reported that
some 36,000 children had to be referred multiple times before they received
statutory support to help them with serious issues like abuse, neglect and
What this means is that children who are in
a desperate state of help or protection are being subjected to further harm
because of a lack of resources. That the most vulnerable children in our
society are at further risk because of funding cuts is quite frankly shameful.
It is little wonder that in this desperate
environment one in seven children’s social workers quit the profession in 2017.
I know that a Labour Government … are
committed to looking strategically and holistically at children’s social care
and stemming the tide of privatisation and outsourcing in the sector because we
know that when profit becomes the driving force good social care suffers.
John McDonnell announced at Conference in
September that we would strengthen trade union rights, introduce a real living
wage and set up a working time commission to recommend better rights for
Our approach is a clear move from the
prescriptive, controlling resource poor environment, we’ve seen under the
Tories to one where services and the people working within them or using them
are treated with dignity and respect.
Despite this Government’s best efforts, the
profession survives. Excellent social work happens every single day in all
areas of our country. Children and adults are protected from harm and their
lives are improved.
I want to thank you all for what you do.
I am proud to be a social worker.
I am proud to be with you here today and
stand with your over twelve thousand strong and growing membership in this
I am not proud of our Government because
their attacks on our profession are not only harming the workforce but leaving
thousands of people without much needed support.
Let’s keep pushing for change and know you
always have a friend in me.