BASW Northern Ireland outlines social work priorities for the new Northern Ireland Executive
Speaking to the BBC News channel at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, on Saturday 3 February, BASW Northern Ireland National Director, Carolyn Ewart, welcomed the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive and outlined the profession’s priorities for the coming mandate.
Asked about her hopes on the difference that will be made now that parties have taken up their ministerial roles, Ms Ewart said: “We really are delighted we have the Assembly back up and running, that democracy has been re-established. Social work has had a particularly bad time in Northern Ireland without political leadership, pressures have grown across every aspect of service delivery, particularly in children’s services which have seen vacancy levels rise exponentially.
“We know that vacancy levels across Northern Ireland are sitting at 8.6% but in Children’s services those levels vary been 26% and 86%. This is a really shocking statistic that we shouldn’t be accepting.”
When pressed on how confident she was that real change can happen given the scale of the problems she had identified, Ms Ewart said: “Real change can happen if there is good political leadership, and a desire to see change. Minister Swann, as he is today, was our previous Health Minister when we last had an Executive. He launched the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and that was a really important step looking at how we ended up in the crisis we currently have.
“Minister Swann knows the history and the issues, so we are hopeful that when he is back in position he is ready to take that research on and see it come to life.”
In light of the pressures facing every Northern Ireland Executive department, Ms Ewart was asked if there is a risk social work could lose out. She replied explaining: “The challenge in Northern Ireland is we tend to always talk about health, we tend to focus on hospitals and sometimes social work and social care lose out in that space. But I think the opportunities that come from the children’s services review offer us a chance to focus on children’s needs as a totality and the recommendation that is in the report around an Arm’s Length Body could be really exciting for Northern Ireland.”