Chancellor called to raise mileage rate for social workers
Published by Professional Social Work magazine, 9 October, 2023
BASW is to write to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of the Autumn Statement calling on him to raise the mileage allowance for social workers.
And this week the Scottish Association of Social Work repeated its demand on the Scottish government to act to increase the rate.
The demand comes in the face of what the association called “a lost decade of pay growth” and a 20 per cent rise in the cost of fuel over the last five years.
The non-taxable mileage rate for social workers using their car for work has remained at 45p a mile since 2011.
In July BASW England and the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) sent an initial letter to the Chancellor demanding the rate is increased to 60p.
National directors Maris Stratulis and Alison Bavidge wrote: “Nobody should be penalised financially for doing their jobs. Additionally, a fairer rate would help to recruit and retain social workers at a time when the profession urgently needs more capacity to meet increasing demands.”
But in a response last month, secretary to the Treasury Gareth Davies said it was “ultimately up to employers to determine the rate at which they reimburse their employees”.
An e-petition calling for the mileage rate for social care workers and volunteer drivers to rise to 60p has been signed by nearly 42,000 people, sparking a debate in the House of Commons.
During the debate, Anum Qaisar of the SNP said: “Some professionals, such as care professionals, drive many thousands of miles each year as part of their employment. Failing to adequately compensate those professionals leaves many of them out of pocket, especially during a cost of living crisis.”
BASW said raising the non-taxable mileage allowance for social workers and social care staff will be one of the association’s “priority asks” of the Autumn Statement on 22 November.
It said: “The bottom line is that it simply isn’t sustainable to keep expecting social workers to absorb the impact of rising costs to do their job. It is unfair, punitive and wrong. Ministers have the powers to address this issue now by uprating the approved mileage allowance payment, and they need to step up to the plate.”
SASW has urged the Scottish government to provide funding to local authorities to increase the mileage rate, or risk seeing an exodus from the profession.
National director Alison Bavidge highlighted the disparity with NHS employees in Scotland who get 61p a mile for travel up to 3,500 miles.
She said: “The UK government’s latest refusal to act comes as little surprise but feels particularly unfair given the impact of the cost of living crisis.
“Workers in Scotland need action now and many of our members may be asking why they do not deserve the same support as NHS workers when it comes to mileage rates.
“I call on the Scottish government and COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) representing our main employers, the local authorities, to ensure this year’s Scottish budget allows funds for a mileage rate increase.”
Unison has demanded the rate for social care staff to rise to 59p a mile in line with that paid to NHS staff in England.
Meanwhile, the Social Workers Union (SWU) has stepped up its campaign calling for reform to social work student bursaries in England.
It claims an eight-year funding freeze has resulted in a real-terms cut in support while caps on the number of bursaries awarded means only around one in six students benefit.
Moreover, social work students face “unique levels of financial hardship” as they are unable to work part-time while doing unpaid work on placements, said SWU.
A response to the campaign from care minister Helen Watley was accused of offering “warm words” but no action by SWU general secretary John McGowan.
More recently, letters sent to Labour shadow ministers calling for their support have gone unanswered.
McGowan said: “Given the vital role that social work students play and the increasing social work recruitment crisis, you would have thought that Labour would have wanted to explore the suggestions put forward by students.
“Sadly, the Labour front bench have not even had the common courtesy to reply. We are now working up alternative proposals for social work bursaries with our colleagues at the British Association of Social Workers and will present these to MPs during the forthcoming General Election campaign.”