The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave unexpected and strong support to social workers in his speech to his Conservative party’s annual conference in Manchester, England on 2 October 2013.
As well as praising the British armed forces, drawing loud applause, and justifying the austerity measures which have resulted in significant reductions in public spending and cuts in anti-poverty programmes, Mr Cameron went on to recognise the uniquely difficult job that social workers have to do.
“I have to make some tough decisions in my job but none as tough as whether to break up a family and rescue a child, or try and stitch that family back together.
“Social work is a noble and vital calling”, Cameron said.
Speaking about his own personal experience of help from a social worker after the birth of his son, Ivan, who was born with serious physical and learning disabilities, David Cameron said:
“I’ll never forget how, after my son Ivan was born, a social worker sat patiently in our kitchen and told us about the sort of help we might need.”
The Prime Minister continued by highlighting his view that Frontline, the Government’s controversial new social work training programme, designed to attract ‘high-flying’ graduates with top class degrees onto fast-track social work training courses, will follow the example of Teach First for teaching by getting “some of the brightest graduates” into the profession.
He concluded by urging delegates to applaud the profession: “Now let us, in this hall, hear it for Britain’s social workers who are doing such an important job in our country today.”
Responding to the comments, the Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers, Bridget Robb said: “BASW very much welcomes the support the Prime Minister has expressed today for the social work profession and fully endorse his comments about the important work social workers do every day of the year.
“We very much hope the government will be equally supportive of local authorities in order to translate these words into actions.
“These are clearly difficult times for the public purse but if finances improve, as the Prime Minister believes they will, so our overstretched social services teams must be prioritised in receiving the injection of resources they need.”
‘David Cameron orchestrates applause for social workers at Tory conference’ – report of the speech in The Guardian
See a cartoon about social workers’ response to Cameron’s speech in The Guardian