SWBT History 1971 to 2021

50 Years Not Out

History of The Social Workers Benevolent Trust (SWBT) 1971-2021

It feels about right to write down some of the known history of The Social Workers Benevolent Trust (SWBT) given that it has just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The SWBT came into being 27th April, 1971 and was formally recognised by the Charity Commission on 17th June 1971. SWBT was formed after BASW had been set up on 17th June 1970. The Trust brought together the welfare and charitable funds of the organisations which formed BASW, namely The Association of Psychiatric Social Workers, The Institute of Medical Social Workers, The Society of Mental Welfare Officers, The Association of Child Care Officers, The Association of Family Case Workers, The Association of Social Workers and The Moral Welfare Workers’ Association and aimed to carry on the work that these organisations had previously performed.

Most of these organisations had benevolent/charitable funds generally ‘for the alleviation of poverty of their respective members’ and it was intended by the members of the newly formed BASW that a new fund called THE SOCIAL WORKERS BENEVOLENT TRUST should be established.

Signatures to the Deed of Trust for SWBT were some highly significant people in relation to social work. Some of those names will still resonate today, such as Enid Warren and Sheila Himmel. It is understood that at the first meeting of the Trustees four applications were considered. In more recent times the number of applications considered by trustees at a meeting has reached fifty applicants.

From the archives it was noted that at the first meeting of the new trust 3 applications were received and granted. In that first-year grants totalling £275 were made and by 1973 had a total of £9368.89 investments. By the1977-78 year a total of £1553 grants were made and the Trust had investments of £17,238.

Today the group of Trustees dedicated to the purposes of the Trust meet six times a year to consider applications and a further twice to look at business matters. The continued development and sustainability of the Trust is due to the generosity of BASW members along with a host of other individuals and organisations willing to donate. A homage should be paid to those who started the Trust along with the many others who, over the last 50 years have given their time to help the Trust continue to evolve.

Various ex- trustees, current trustees; and others have given information to help with this article, also information has been gleaned from the archives.

The first person to comment is Joan Baraclough.

Joan was BASW’s Assistant General Secretary when SWBT was created in 1971. She became the first Secretary of the SWBT (and incidentally also of Social Workers’ Education Trust which was established by BASW at the same time).

In respect of the history of the Trust, Joan was the Secretary to the Trust for its first 5 years. Following from Joan, Victoria Baird became the Secretary. Joan recalled meeting with Trustees Victoria and Sheila Himmel, along with the then General Secretary of BASW, Chris Andrews. Joan believes that Sheila had been the first Chair of the SWBT.

Joan reported that in those early times, the amounts paid as state or work-related pensions were small and as a consequence quite a lot of need existed. There was a considerable amount of stigma associated with having to seek charitable help. Therefore, having the creation of the Trust meant social workers were more at ease with applying for help from their peers. Also in those days the Trust met 4 times a year with approx. 8-10 applications each meeting. Not all applicants were eligible and there was never enough funds to meet all the requests that were made.

Next to give historical information was Kate Slade who took over as Chair from Patrick Phelan in the late 1980s/early 1990s until about 2005 and really the job then was much as it is now – helping those in need of financial help. 

Kate said, “I suppose one of the additional things that happened during that period was the archiving of the records, which are now at Warwick University. I was involved in getting the records from the basement in Kent Street to the university and helping to get them in some kind of order”.  She also thought that someone was paid to do most of the work on this. Additionally, Kate remembered that BASW members voted to give a small percentage of the membership fee to the Trust (and also to SWET). This obviously was quite an important landmark as it gave the Trust the basis of a regular income which was a considerable help in planning the grant giving programme.  She thought that this happened during Patrick’s reign as the Chair which she believed was 1980s/1990s.

Again from the archives it is worth noting that in 1987 a total of £8735 grants were made and at this point the Trust had investments of £33,579.

Kate says that one small memory she has of the time when Patrick was Chair was that he always tried to bring mention of Queen Victoria into his Annual report to the BASW AGM.  He crafted beautiful short speeches which were always well received.  The fellow trustees would then stand at the exits and shake collecting tins into which BASW members donated very generously.

Hilary Makepeace was treasurer for a number of years ending around 2016. She remembered that during her time as treasurer Jean Lockley, Julian Levitt and Simon Cole were trustees for the whole time she was a trustee. Simon Cole became chair after Kate Slade retired.  Ann Gegg was a trustee for a considerable time and she and Hilary fronted an appeal to life members of BASW for £40 donations when it was the trusts 40th birthday.   Margaret Faulkner joined the year after Hilary, Margaret is still a trustee today. Hilary remembers that Carol Dutton was applications secretary a role undertaken at some times by Jean Lockley and Hilary went on to say that she had been a member of BASW since its instigation having originally been a Medical Social Worker; and at one stage had been on one of the Policy Committees. Upon retirement Hilary wanted to find a way to contribute to BASW and when she saw the advert for a trustee and treasurer, a role she already performed for her local Youth club and she thought it was an ideal opportunity. Hilary says that, “I soon realised I was facing a learning curve because the income came from investments, and grants from BASW which were received quarterly. Donations and legacies were received from a considerable number of social workers at different times of the year and had no direct link to the dates of the meetings to decide on grants”. She further reports that as the treasurer she had to bring some hard facts to the final decision-making process on the applications for grants. As the treasurer she worked closely with the applications secretary, chair, and trustees. During the whole time she was treasurer the grants were sent as a cheque with two signatures.

Eventually during Hilary’s time SWBT moved to a management arrangement with Quilters Financial Services. There was also the introduction of gift aid to the Trust which then enabled requests to HMRC to increase the value of donations. In addition BASW increased the percentage amount received per member and BASW increased its membership so Hilary was able to report a higher amount available for grants at meetings. However, challenges remained as applications increased; the firm of auditors changed and she believed the trustees were expected to undertake more of the preparatory work than previously expected.

Hilary went on to say that whilst she has described how the treasurer role changed, she felt it would be similar for all the roles. For example Jean monitored the application profile and this work would have increased given the rising numbers of applications.

Jean Lockley reports that she became a Trustee of SWBT in 1998 and left in 2019. She took over the role of Honorary Secretary in 2000 and then became Co-Chair in 2015. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Trustee especially working with other Trustees who came and went over the 20 years I was involved. The content of application forms was often quite harrowing to read. As social workers we are used to seeing and hearing about trauma but reading how colleagues could be in so much difficulty in their personal lives was often difficult”. When Jean was Honorary Secretary she reports that she used to receive application forms weekly from Kent Street (BASW’s old address) in the post on Saturday mornings (this was before the Trust was able to send them electronically).

Jean felt that over the 20 years she had been a trustee the nature of the financial difficulties that applicants experienced changed but they were consistently as a result of crisis in personal lives due to ill health – both mental and physical, family breakdown, and employment issues.

What did change over the years however was the increasing number of applicants and the size of the debts that people were trying to manage and the amount that that they were asking for from the Trust.

In 2000 Jean reports that generally there were about 8 to 10 applications to discuss at each of the 6 meetings during the year and grants totalling about £12,000 were made. By 2010 she felt that this had risen to 60 applications in the year with 43 grants provided making a total of £21,500. By 2018 the Trust received 181 applications and 160 grants were made totalling £76,000.

The Trust was always very grateful to BASW members for their continued support. The BASW levy that members pay annually in their membership subscription rose in 2012 from £1.00 to £2.00 each member and this helped with the growing demands on the Trust. Also the grant from Civil Service Insurance Society which started in 2017 was a big bonus for the Trust.

Bridget Robb reports that when she was CEO of BASW “of being invited to attend meetings where trustees had piles of application forms in front of them on the table, but they were very concerned about confidentiality – so I was never allowed to see any of them. But I had an overwhelming confidence that all the trustees cared deeply about the people who had applied for a grant and of them having detailed conversations about each application and what help could be given”. Bridget who is now co-chair of the Trust feels that some of this has been lost through having so many applications to consider, though there is some mitigation against this by all Board members recording their comments electronically before each meeting to aid the discussion.

Finally, our research goes on and if you have any further information about the history of SWBT from an applicants or a trustee’s perspective we would love to hear from you. Or you may wish to donate to help colleagues who are in need or even apply for a grant if you are struggling financially and contact could be made via our website at swbt.uk.

Susan Roxburgh: Joint Co Chair Social Worker’s Benevolent Trust – January 2022