Jane Shears (British Association of Social Work)

Topic: People in Poverty: Social work in the context of a cost of living crisis

Thematic area: Threats to Human Rights in Relation to the Delivery of Social Services

Language: English 


This paper presents the findings of research carried out by the British Association of Social Work (BASW) through a Four Nation survey of the social work workforce in 2022 and again in 2023. Co-produced with practising social workers, the survey aimed to gather information on the views of social workers and student social workers about the core issues affecting them, what they found most rewarding in their current role and workplace, the challenges facing the profession and their plans for the immediate future.
With 2062 responses in 2022, we were privileged to gain an insight into the state of the profession, and the ongoing impact of working beyond COVID-19.
Throughout the pandemic, social workers demonstrated their resilience, their determination, their creativity and their on-going desire to help and support people with whom they work. Yet this came with a price: respondents described their workload as “impossible”, leaving them “utterly exhausted”, wrestling with ethical dilemmas, moral injury and challenges in adapting to hybrid working. Working conditions for social workers was a key area of concern, with less that 25% planning to remain in their current role. In contrast, social workers reported peer support as having the most positive impact on their wellbeing at work; with access to training opportunities; good supervision, effective management and leadership also listed in the top five answers.
Of greater concern were the cuts to public services and the failure of adequate funding of social care. Navigating the impact of the cost of living for people using services was seen as the biggest challenge for social workers as increasing numbers of the population were pushed into poverty.
We will compare the 2022 findings with the 2023 data, analysing emergent trends and discussing the implications of the findings for BASW’s anti-poverty campaign.