BASW UK has launched a campaign against poverty, which includes three asks of the UK Government to provide greater financial security for people being hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis.
1. Extend the debt breathing space scheme to 180 days.
As poverty worsens, debt increases. The breathing space scheme is a ‘pause’ on action and contact from creditors that also prevents interest, fees, penalties, or charges being added for a 60-day period. There is also a mental health breathing space that can last as long as the crisis treatment lasts plus 30 days. There were 6,342 Breathing Space registrations in October 2022, which is 31% higher than the number registered in October 2021. 6,230 were Standard breathing space registrations, which is 31% higher than in October 2021, and 112 were Mental Health breathing space registrations, which is 38% higher than the number in October 2021.
2. Freeze evictions during the cost-of-living crisis to prevent further homelessness
Reducing income and increasing demands from landlords will translate into more evictions and more families becoming homeless. This cannot be allowed to happen and would cause untold damage to adults and children, placing many at safeguarding risk and lead to even more demand on social care and other services.
In January 2022, BASW worked with Shelter and other organisations to produce homelessness guidance for social workers. You can access the document here. While it focuses on English law and policy, it contains a summary of research evidence that is of relevance to other countries in the UK.
3. Scrap the two-child cap on benefits
At present, relevant benefits are only paid for the first two children. This impacts on many families but disproportionally impacts on those ethnic groups who have larger families. It also results in inhumane means testing, for example, the rape clause.
BASW is a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition alongside over 80 partner organisations. The coalition campaigns to end child poverty through giving young people a platform to share their experiences with policy-makers, sharing knowldge and best practice with key stakeholders and holding governments to account on their commitments. Find out more
During the campaign, BASW UK will seek to influence politicians to support our campaign asks, provide members with information and resources and reach out to our profession to amplify social work's voice in challenging poverty. Find out more
In November 2022, BASW Chief Executive, Ruth Allen and BASW UK Chair, Julia Ross wrote to the Prime Minister ahead of the UK Government's Autumn Statement urging him to protect the most disadvantaged people from worsening poverty.
Alongside calling for a freeze on evictions and removal of the two child cap, we pressed for benefits to be uprated in line with inflation and removing the benefit cap. We also added our support to campaigns from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Children's Society calling for benefits to be increased.
While it was welcome that the Chancellor listened to our collective calls and announced this policy, far more still needs to be done to protect those at the sharp end of this cost-of-living crisis. Read BASW UK's full response to the Autumn Statement
The UK Government responded to our letter in February. Read the full response
We reiterated our campaign calls ahead of the Spring Budget with a written submission to the UK Treasury.
We will continue to lobby UK Ministers to announce more targeted support for those being hardest hit by cost-of-living pressures.
We'll keep members informed of campaign developments and activity through our weekly email newsletters. Members should receive these updates every Tuesday evening.
We will also be using social media to raise awareness of our campaign, work with other organisations and influence politicians.
Follow us on Twitter- @BASW_UK - and on Facebook - Facebook.com/BASW.UK - and search for our posts using the hastags #SWAgainstPoverty and #EqualAsOne
Spotlight on Poverty
As part of the campaign, we're shedding light on different aspects of social work practice and how poverty impacts on people who use social work services. View our resources below.
- Adult Social Care and Adults with Disabilities
- Poverty is the wallpaper of practice – “too big to tackle – too familiar to notice” Morris (2021)
- Care Leavers and Care Experienced People
- The link between poverty and mental health
- People with Learning Disabilities
- How can we tackle the energy crisis?
- 'Talking about Poverty' In conversation with Julia Ross (BASW UK Chair) and Dominic Watters (Social Worker and Campaigner)
- Equality for Women
- Why tackling poverty is a priority for BASW- Blog by Julia Ross
- Housing and Homelessness
- Poverty and Homelessness: Do we really listen? (Blog)
- The safety net is broken: how the cost of living crisis is laying bare the failings of our social security system (Podcast)
Lobbying & Influencing
Poverty and inequality are unacceptable. Social workers are fighting back against social injustice.
On 27 March 2023, we hosted an event in Westminster to promote our campaign to parliamentarians and urge them to back our campaign asks.
As well as sharing with them first hand accounts of the impact of poverty from frontline social work practice and from those with lived experience, we also provided them with copies of the latest version of our anti-poverty guide and a briefing pack with our 'spotlight on poverty' series.
We were pleased to welcome parliamentarians from across the political divide to the event, including Catherine West MP, Cat Smith MP, Paulette Hamilton MP, Peter Bottomley MP, David Linden MP, Virendra Sharma MP and Andy McDonald MP.
We are working to embed anti-poverty practice in social care. Awareness of poverty is included in all of our professional development activities.
BASW launched its Anti-Poverty Practice Guide in September 2019 to support the practice of social workers working with people living in poverty. The guide was refreshed as a position statement in March 2023.
BASW and SWU have developed a Campaign Action Pack to encourage anti-austerity activity locally, regionally and nationally across the UK.
The step-by-step guide outlines everything from how to organise public meetings, rallies and awareness-raising film nights to setting up petitions, lobbying and contacting the press.
Austerity Action Group is a key vehicle in SWU and BASW’s ongoing campaign for a more socially just environment.
Born out of the Boot Out Austerity Group, AAG is marching on, tackling the same crucial strands in society – poverty and inequality – that continue to negatively affect people who use social services.