A quick look at who’s applying for grants from SWBT

Female typing on keyboard

When I approached the SWBT about becoming a Trustee a few years ago, after a lengthy career in child care Social Work, I naively thought that I had a fair idea about who the applicants might be for a grant from the charity – but I was completely wrong !

I imagined the typical applicant to be an elderly, retired person perhaps struggling with poor health and emerging disabilities – and facing mounting pressures to maintain, repair or adapt their home in the light of changing circumstances.

As a UK-wide charity, I imagined applicants to be relatively evenly dispersed across the principal areas of population – wrong again !

As a charity – and with the agreement of applicants – we collect data about the characteristics of those applying for a grant and, on a serious note, this makes for sobering reading : in this blog, I just want to share some of the headlines with you from information gathered between October 2022 and July 2023 by our hard- working applications secretary.

Whilst we welcome repeat applications from Qualified Social Workers in need and facing hardship, 72% of applicants in this period were new applicants with 36% of applicants in the age range 30-39 years and 33% of applicants aged 40-49 years.

The majority of applicants, then, are middle-aged and in mid-career, struggling with the cost of living and accumulating large amounts of debt, often facing job insecurity and dependent on friends, family and pay-day loans – with others using debt advice, court orders or declaring bankruptcy.

Organizations such Citizen’s Advice, StepChange, Turn2Us and others undertake valuable work attempting to keep individuals and families financially afloat and we regularly advise applicants to seek financial advice when the going gets tough.

46% of applicants cite “household expenses” as the principal reason for their application and a recent article in The Guardian reviewing salary growth across nine identified professions described Social Work as having the lowest level of all – perhaps “negative” salary growth.

73% of applicants to SWBT are in employment with 49% describing their household income as a mix of salary and benefits.

Having now read hundreds of applications, it does appear to me that independent practitioners, those employed by independent agencies and those working part-time can be particularly vulnerable to loss of employment and financial meltdown when personal or professional circumstances implode – against a backdrop of the after-effects of Covid and the squeeze on Local Authority finances.

In this harsh occupational climate, the need for workers’ representation by a Trade Union or professional association appears paramount : close to home, our sister organizations The Social Worker’s Union ( SWU ) and BASW, with their Advice and Representation Service ( A & R ), provide an excellent service but, of course, other providers are available.

A final statistic : 19% of applications are from the South East of England, !8% from Greater London and 16% from the North West of England. It is suggested that sky-high property prices, both owner-occupier and rented, are the major players here but it is argued that the “regional pay” proposal is not the solution as it may have the effect of driving-down pay levels for everyone.

We’re stronger together and we need to move forward as one.

Robert Pook
SWBT Trustee
4th September 2023
(On behalf of the Trustees of the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust)