The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) will attend all five Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust Board extraordinary meetings today to highlight the social work profession's opposition to cuts to the HSC budget.
Speaking ahead of the meetings Carolyn Ewart (pictured), NIASW Country Manager, said: "Social Workers are currently operating under increasingly constrained budgets and with ever more complex caseloads. We know that half of all social workers report at least one vacancy in their team and as a consequence nine out of ten social workers routinely work additional unpaid hours. This marks a saving to the Health and Social Care sector of £11.4 million annually. To ensure staff continue to deliver high quality services to the most vulnerable in society it is fundamentally important that budget cuts do not result in additional staff vacancies."
"Spending on locum and agency staff is spiralling across the HSC. Relying on these types of contracts is proving unsustainable and it does not always result in the highest standards of care. It is essential the HSC Trusts and the Department of Health urgently devise and implement a plan to significantly reduce spend on agency and locum staff across HSC"
Outlining the challenging environment staff are working in daily, Carolyn explained: "pressure is increasing across the board, not least in adult social care. For example, we expect to see a 15% increase in the number of care packages required by 2020. We must not see cuts to these vital services, the impact on the people who rely on them would be unacceptable."
Ms Ewart added: "The current funding crisis points to the need for Northern Ireland to have an effective Executive and Assembly working to promote the interests of all users of health and social care services. I would encourage all political parties to seek an urgent resolution to end the current political impasse."
Picture (c) British Association of Social Workers.