Social workers play a vital role in achieving better outcomes for individuals and on World Social Work Day we have an extra reason to celebrate social work. I have been working with social workers in one local authority and have taken away some key lessons about relationships in social work.
It was great to see the social care workforce championed on the front page of the Evening Standard this week by Glen Garrod, president of ADASS. Seeing this story as headline news is unusual, but given that these 1.3 million staff are such an important part of our society (they impact more than 10 million of us on a daily basis – either personally or because of a close family member), it shouldn’t be.
The story plays up the impact of Brexit on the social care workforce. I’m in touch with about three quarters of the 150 Directors of Adult Social Services, and I have been struck by the fact that Brexit is actually quite far down their worry list. I was also really surprised that only 8% of the social care workforce are from the EU. The stark fact is that the sector hasn’t made care work attractive enough to people coming from either near or far – Britain, Europe or the rest of the world. It is a travesty that there are more vacancies than roles filled by EU nationals.
My assessment is that Brexit is not going to have a significant impact on the workforce in pure numbers. However, it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The system is under such pressure that even a small increase in recruitment challenges could lead to system lock – a downward spiral of more people languishing on waiting lists, more people stranded in hospital beds and an ever-increasing proportion of public services budgets spent on dealing with crises rather than improving lives.
So what is the answer? Simply responding to the supply issue is not enough – solving this requires looking at both demand and supply. Through the upcoming spending review and delayed social care green paper, politicians need to act boldly to:
1) Fund the system adequately so that the workforce are respected and rewarded
2) Help shift the system to focus on demand. Our analysis has proven that for 70% of all those receiving care, more could have been done to improve independence and reduce costs.
More money is essential, but it isn’t enough by itself. What social care really needs from politicians is not a Brexit response, but that they tear themselves away from Brexit long enough to tackle the bigger questions.