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Social worker students unable to live on inadequate bursaries

STUDENTS studying to be England’s next generation of social workers say they are suffering poverty because the bursaries which enable them to live are inadequate.

They have also accused social care minister Helen Whately of fobbing them off after she responded to an appeal for help with nothing but “warm words.”

An open letter sent to the minister was signed by more than 400 social work students.

In response, Ms Whately replied: “I can assure you that both departments are committed to support the profession and those aspiring to enter the profession.”

John McGowan, general secretary of the Social Workers Union (SWU), said: “The minister’s warm words sadly contained no promise to change the unfair bursaries system in England.” 

The SWU said student bursaries for social workers in England were unequally distributed and limited in number.

Where bursaries are available, funding for them has been frozen for over eight years resulting in a real-terms cut in support for many students.

The union said that since 2013, bursaries available had been capped at 1,500 postgraduate students and 2,500 undergraduates despite a growing recruitment crisis in the social work profession.

Social work student training includes front-line work and students are unable to take on part-time jobs to fund themselves, the union said.

Rebekah Pierre, officer at the British Association of Social Workers, said: “With an ongoing recruitment and retention crisis in social work, we urge the government to rethink its position and commit to supporting every student that wishes to pursue a career in social work.”

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