EPSU Statement for World Social Workers Day 2024

Social Workers day 19 March EPSU banner

Supporting Social Workers for Quality Care

(19 March 2024) As we celebrate World Social Workers Day on 19 March, we honour the immense, often over-looked contributions of social workers in our society.

As frontline guardians of societal well-being, dedicated to promoting equality, social workers have a transformative role in driving societal change.  They are tasked with addressing complex human issues, in a multitude of social settings, ranging from poverty and mental health, family dynamics to community and penitentiary services.  EPSU proudly represents social workers on the Pan-European level.  

Access to essential services

Principle 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights underscores everyone has the right to access essential services of good quality.  Social workers are the ones who provide assistance and support those in a vulnerable position in society, enabling access to essential services that are key for active participation in society and the labour market, such as early childhood education and care, healthcare, long-term care, social housing.

No to a return of austerity measures

Previously austerity measures dismantled social services in many countries, lead to staff shortages, burn-outs and a decline in quality and a lack of services which resulted in long waiting lists. Such measures hit services provided by municipalities and non-for-profit organisations as budgets are slashed.

We should not repeat the experience of a decade ago – Social Partners express concerns over economic governance review.

Staff shortages and Psychosocial Risks (high Caseloads, emotional Stress, Lack of Support)

Social work is rewarding. It comes with challenges that often remain unseen by those outside the field. From systemic staff shortages and poor working conditions and low pay to personal pressures, social workers encounter a multitude of problems that threaten both their health and  their well-being. Addressing these challenges is essential not only for the improvement of social work practice but also for the betterment of the communities they serve.

Burnt-out

Social workers are grappling with a complex set of social circumstances and are a high-risk profession for work related stress and burnout, which can have significant consequences for the individuals affected, the individuals and families they support and the social work profession as a whole.  The issue of burnout on social workers is a special concern, given the critical role they play in supporting those in need.

A survey of Social Workers undertaken by Recognize completed across various settings, including hospitals, schools, community centers, and private practices, found that a significant percentage of social workers reported experiencing symptoms of burnout, which significantly impacts their mental health and ability to perform their job effectively.  They reported often feeling isolated and unsupported, with limited collaboration, supervision, and debriefing opportunities.

To protect social workers from burnout we need to have on the European level a dedicated Directive on Psychosocial Risks Factors, as proposed by EPSU and other European Trade Union Federations.  

Measures to support Social Workers at the national and European levels

To that end, and to celebrate the international day of Social Workers, we call on the European and national policy makers to:

  • Improve pay and working conditions.
  • Improve access to trade unions at the workplace and ensure collective bargaining and collective agreements.
  • Improve Occupational Safety and Health regulations, including to initiate work on the dedicated directive on Psychosocial Risks.
  • Allow for better training and continuous professional development within working time.
  • Provide more funding - as EPSU and the employers argue - No cuts.

EPSU supports and proudly represents social workers on the Pan-European level.  The pandemic and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis showed that social workers play a crucial role in our communities helping to make them more equal and more resilient.