Social Work Profession Motion

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2014 National Women's Conference
18 October 2013

Conference notes that social work is a profession dominated by women. Social work is a gendered activity, in terms of both its workforce and client group and it is well documented that more women than men enter this area of work (‘Gender at Work: Characteristics of ‘Failing’ Social Work Students’. Sheila Furness. Division of Social Work and Social Care, University of Bradford). It was a career with a defined career path, where newly qualified social workers could expect support and training as they developed their skills in the real world. However, in recent years, this approach has deteriorated with budget cuts, greater client expectations, scapegoating by the press; increasing workloads, pay failing to keep up with inflation, high staff turnover and a reduction in support and training programmes for newly qualified staff.

For too long now, newly qualified staff are often greeted with high case loads and complex cases. The competition for qualified social workers often results in staff undertaking a period of work experience with one employer and then moving to another authority that can offer a lighter caseload and higher pay. It is no surprise that social workers are one of the most highly unionised groups working within the public sector. A UNISON press release on 15th October highlighted that a recent joint survey of social workers by UNISON, employers and other organisations found that many social workers reported widespread use of agency workers as a result of recruitment freezes, informal arrangements to help each other out, stacking of cases and employers using bullying tactics to pressurise social workers to accept additional workloads.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the culmination of this is an increase in the level of sickness absence, refusing flexible working requests and aggressive use of formal capability procedures. Therefore, Conference asks that the National Women’s Committee to work with appropriate national and regional committee’s to :

1)Investigate the adverse impact on women of with a view to,

2)Using the findings to raise awareness of the issues and the particular impact on women

3)issues guidance to branches and women members, outlining the steps that women can take to protect their health and their professional careers.

South East Region