Request to help bring about radical change in social care

BASW is consulting on a proposal that would bring about fundamental and radical change in adult social care.  They are proposing a new 4 step approach to the way needs are assessed and resources allocated.  

The model separates decisions about need and decisions about budgets. Assessment of need and the resources required would be a matter between the practitioner and service user. The decision about how much could be afforded would be a subsequent and transparent management responsibility.

This would bring an end to the need for managerial control over a social worker’s practice, in order to control spending. It will also, for the first time, expose the real funding gap that exists in adult social care, and therefore expose political leaders to their responsibility for closing it. Read an article in Community Care reporting on the proposal here.

SWAN is urging members to engage in the consultation. Whether BASW follows through on this radicalism and proceed to seriously lobby for change may depend on the strength of response to the consultation. It will require about 15 minutes of your time to read the consultation document, and then another 15 minutes to complete the on-line survey. Click here for the link that will take you to both.

SWAN Members Present All Over The UK in Climate Protests

Friday’s global gatherings appear to have amounted to the largest movement in history of people protesting about a single issue. Millions of people, in thousands of protests, across hundreds of countries, turned out to shout about the destruction of our living world and it’s connections to migration, poverty, war and capitalism.

Aberdeen and Glasgow saw large marches with a strong Swan presence…

The UCU branch present at Liverpool Hope Uni organised their own solidarity event that saw hundreds of staff walk out of work to protest lack of action on the climate crisis.

In Wigan, steering committee member Malcolm spoke at a public event, demanding system change – not climate change, on behalf of SWAN.

SWAN members were also present in London and Leciestershire. If you have an event report that you would like to share, contact us at

SWAN joins the Global Climate Strikes – digitally and in person!

SWAN members are joining the Global Climate strikes in towns and cities around the world. Our website will be shut down tomorrow, to join the digital strike, but we already know that there are SWAN members joining the movement in:

  • Kelvingrove Park, Kelvin Way in Glasgow. Assembling 11am.
  • Liverpool Hope Uni, Taggart Avenue at 1pm
  • Merseyside Social Work Partnership Conference, Lace Centre, Sefton Park at 12:30pm
  • Liverpool’s main event – 12pm in the city centre’s St George’s Square
  • Wigan at 12:30pm
  • Salford social work staff are being supported by Unison to walk out at lunch time, and to join national protests.
  • Market Harborough, Leicestershire from 12pm with local activists and primary schools coming together.
  • London’s main events.

PLEASE send us your reports of action throughout the day. Any photos or written accounts can be organised and shared on our website.

The Accidental Campaigner

The Accidental Campaigner

James Corbett is an English teacher. He’s quite ordinary really. And yet here he is, on day 37 of a 46 day walk from Glasgow to London, collecting signatures for his petition to save the core of the NHS.

“I didn’t know or understand about the changes to the 2012 Health and Social Care Act until quite recently. It removes the legal responsibility of the sec of state for the diagnosis, treatment, and care of UK citizens. That means that it’s not the govt’s duty anymore to protect our health.  It opens the door to private companies to come and make money from us when we are suffering. They’re concerned about their shareholders rather than the patients. This major change wasn’t included in the Tory party manifesto of 2010. The social care bill had already been drafted – this omission was snide. It feels like a sly move. This made me realise that I was going to walk, I was going to get on my feet.

“One of the reasons I started from Glasgow is because my good friend Donny (from Glasgow) – his wife has cancer. She’s very, very ill. She’s suffering. My neighbour’s son has cerebal palsy. One of my closest friends spent 4 months in hospital. And what unites them all is that they didn’t have to worry about the financial implications of their treatment. An Americanised health care system would have financially crushed them. With Donald Trump discussing the NHS as part of a trade deal, are the vultures circling?”

I’ve seen passionate people standing outside Chorley Hospital for years, campaigning for a 24 hours A+E. What I am doing in comparison is nothing. I was inspired by the Chartists, by the Jarrow marchers. The 7 point Charter got rejected twice – but here we are in 2019 with 6 of the 7 points now in effect. I am simply a delivery boy for the petition, I am carrying a message. I couldn’t have got this far without the overwhelming support of all the people out there whom I have met and spoken to who really care about the NHS. The NHS actually really unites us all, no matter our political persuasion; UK citizens are really passionate about the NHS and what it stands for.”

Swan supports James in his passionate plea to protect our health and social care system from massive structural damage. Stand in solidarity with James by signing his petition and adding your voice:

ADDACTION workers strike in Wigan

Substance misuse workers employed by the charity Addaction struck last week, after management refused to honour a two percent pay rise following the NHS Agenda for Change pay rate increase. This had been promised after former NHS workers were TUPED over to the charity. There had been last minute talks at ACAS earlier – negotiations that had been unable to resolve the dispute.

There were lively pickets outside Addaction’s offices in Leigh and Wigan. The strike was well supported by  Wigan Trade Council, and there were banners from the local RMT branch, Salford Unison and others.

One worker who wished to remain anonymous said “We  love our work and make a crucial contribution to the care of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. In desperation, we are taking strike action to fight for the pay we were promised for the vital work we perform.”

Another worker said “We were promised and reassured that there would be no changes in our conditions of service. Everything would remain the same, we were assured, and we would receive our rise like the rest of the NHS workforce. After ten years of austerity a two percent rise will not restore our levels of pay. We must fight this, because if we don’t the management will see this as a weakness and they will come for our holidays and pensions like the rest of the public sector. We must use every method to win including the legal path and more strikes if necessary.”

Another worker said “this is a charity and it certainly doesn’t begin at home – except paying very high salaries to those at the top”.

Management have finally agreed to talks this week .

Solidarity With West Dunbartonshire

In June, West Dunbartonshire workers took the decision to vote for strike action, should their working conditions fail to immediately improve.

SWAN Stands In Solidarity With West Dunbartonshire’s Social Workers As They Vote To Strike

The needs and safety of vulnerable children and their families are being jeopardised by the unsafe working conditions of their social workers, say West Dunbartonshire’s Unison members. SWAN condemns the closure of offices, forcing staff to work in inappropriate environments away from their colleagues, away from support, and requiring long travel distances. SWAN condemns high workloads that are preventing social workers from being able to offer each child and family what they are entitled to from social care services – and what we are legally obliged to provide.

Scotland is not sheltered from the UK Government’s waging of war upon the most deprived people in our society. The decimation of public sector funding and resources has resulted in fear, insecurity and anxiety for workers and service users alike. Strike action and workers’ resistance is the key to real change. It shines a light on the willingness of management to abandon their responsibilities and leave staff to face the serious consequences. We have seen, after the walkout of the homeless case workers and the successful Equal Pay strike within Glasgow, that united disruptive action gets results. 

SWAN offers our full support to the social workers who have voted to strike in West Dunbartonshire, should significant changes fail to materialise swiftly. Solidarity Meetings amongst our members are being organised in response. We stand together against this dangerous erosion of good practice.

SWAN Steering Committee



Fascist ‘Tommy Robinson’ has called a rally against the BBC in Salford, Greater Manchester on Saturday 23 February. The convicted racist criminal has no right to be on our publicly paid TV service in the first place. The fraudster has sought to sow division, and the media have every right to criticise a man with a history of racist violence and fascist organisation. The former BNP member and EDL founder would like to remove the freedom of the press to criticise him so he’s free to whip up racism and Islamophobia.

Recently he targeted refugee children from Syria in Huddersfield in order to incite Islamophobia. Working people in Manchester have long rejected the toxic politics that Robinson stands for. Manchester is a proud multicultural city with Jewish, Muslim, Black, White, LGBT+ communities. We should stand in unity against this Nazi thug.

Saturday 23 February, 11am BBC Television Studios, Salford Quays, Salford M50 2QH

Hosted by Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism

Submit your proposals for workshops at the #SWAN2019 Conference!

This year’s Swan conference is a fast paced one day affair, with a huge number of speakers available for your enjoyment. Nevertheless, we are reserving space for 20 workshops to run during the very popular Workshop Stream.

We are inviting you to submit proposals relevant to the topics covered during the conference, the full schedule of which is available here.

Swan aims to promote diversity and inclusivity within its timetable. The workshop stream is a great opportunity for often marginalised voices to be heard and for international perspectives to be presented.

Papers can be presentations (speaker focused) or workshops (interactive), but must run for no more than 20 minutes, and 10 minutes will be allocated for audience questions.



Radical Social Work In Tumultuous Times: Fighting For Equality and Social Justice!

We are pleased to announce that booking is now open for our annual conference on the 6th April. This year’s conference is a one day affair, packed to the rafters with speakers of outstanding calibre representing local campaign groups, families and individuals working with social workers and professionals from across the social work world.

Book here!

The conference takes place against a backdrop of growing economic crisis, continuing austerity, Government meltdown over Brexit and the growth of right-wing populism and racism (in the UK and internationally). From Brazil to Hungary, right wing politicians are trying to push back gains made over generations for women’s, LGBT+, workers and indigenous rights.

But it’s not all gone their way. Over the last year we have witnessed the magnificent victory for women’s rights in 8th Amendment campaign in Ireland and the growth of the anti-austerity ‘yellow vest’ movement in France.

What has been the impact of austerity and cuts on children’s, adults’ or mental health services? In the face of managerialism, how do we retain our values? How do we counter the rise of racism and Islamophobia? What do we say to counter Transphobia? How do we support refugee rights? How can we support the struggles of Palestinians?

These and similar questions will be addressed at this year’s SWAN conference. To enrich the debate we have a fantastic list of speakers, including:

  • Gill Archer (Unison national officer)
  • Prof Brid Featherstone (Uni of Huddersfield)
  • Professor Dave Whyte (University of Liverpool)
  • Dr Dave Scott (Open University)
  • Nahella Ashraf (Stand Up To Racism)
  • Bob Findlay Williams (DPAC)

We also have sessions run by campaigning social work organisations like Social Work Without Borders (SWWB), UK/Pal Social Work Network, the Campaign Against Prison Expansion (CAPE), and In Defence of Youth Work (IDYW)

Book here!

To top it all off there will be a range of stalls from campaigning organisations and a bookshop selling radical books and merchandise.

The conference is exceptionally cheap, £15 for students and £20 for non-students (and we have 50 free places for refugees and service users).

The price even includes teas and coffees and a packed lunch.

If you would like one of the free places, please email

For the FULL SCHEDULE please click here.

Social Workers invited to Palestine April 2019 with PALUK.

Proposed Social Work trip to Palestine April 2019

Palestine UK Social Work Network (PALUK)

This Network was conceived following the launch of the Global Development Agenda for Social Work, which was launched at the 2010 Biennial IFSW Global Conference.

Under the auspices of this agenda we have sought to develop effective peer-to-peer social work relationships, between Palestinian practitioners and UK based practitioners.

In 2019 we are eager to renew our commitment to the network.  Our colleagues have continued to conduct their professional practice under the ongoing duress of occupation, and at considerable personal and professional risk. Over and above the daily restrictions of movement and harassment at checkpoints, several of our colleagues have either been killed through military actions, have been imprisoned or have had their family members arrested and imprisoned.

We are eager to continue to engage with our Palestinian colleagues. Whilst we have sought to continue to raise awareness about our understanding of their situation here in the UK, we would like to continue to be relevant partners to our colleagues. It is clear that the publicity generated here in the UK regarding the arrest and detention of a prominent social worker has helped to raise global awareness, and as such, has been valued by Palestinian colleagues.

PALUK successfully facilitated a delegation of nearly 50 UK social workers to Palestine in 2014, and this attracted great interest, as it was a tangible expression of global solidarity, for our professional colleagues.

It’s clearly time that we revisited this, or something similar. Those of us who were involved at the initial point had already read “Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape “ by the noted Palestinian author and civil rights campaigner Raja Shehadeh (2008). Further we were aware of the success and the impact of the BASW lead event in 2017 “Boot out Austerity” where the social work profession took a stance in raising awareness of the impact of the government’s policy of austerity on the lives of our clients. In essence, we feel that walking together as an act of solidarity, has a lengthy credentials.

Thus PALUK is proposing a trip for UK social workers to join with us on a walk in Palestine jointly with our Palestinian colleagues in April.  We will walk from the city of Nablus, through the Palestinian countryside and olive groves , staying with villagers for three days until we reach the city of Jericho. In addition we will visit the Freedom Theatre in Jenin and meet with colleagues there. We will visit the notorious Ofer Military courts in Ramallah, and visit projects in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron.

 This trip is being coordinated in partnership with our Palestinian colleagues and the Siraj Centre in Bethlehem, who have extensive experience in organizing such trips

Please see attached article re rambling in Palestine

Please note that we hope to film and document this trip for future use, and will seek the consent of participants prior to the trip

We also would like to draw up a draft list of participants  and please note we are restricted to 20-25 participants at most

For expressions of interest and further details regarding dates, price, itinerary, costs, and requirements, please e mail

SWAN statement on Bristol’s social care: When ‘Better Care’ means worse care.

Austerity hit Bristol City’s social care services – when “Better Care” is worse care.

The South West region of the Social Work Action Network (a nation-wide, radical, campaigning organisation of social work and social care practitioners, students, service users, carers and academics) has, in the past 9 months, been pursuing a campaign to persuade Bristol City Council that their Better Care scheme for adult care services in the city is having a detrimental effect on both service user well-being and social worker professional practice.

We wrote to the Director of Adult Care Services in March 2018 expressing our concerns, gleaned following a request for information from nearly 200 social workers, student social workers and service users in the South West of England.

SWAN concerns:

* There has been increased monitoring and scrutiny of service users, experienced by them as intrusive, reframed by managers as promoting independence but seen as cost-reducing in purpose.

* Social workers tell us that the cost reduction agenda is openly pushed by managers with little regard to service user need

* Service users tell us they are increasingly reluctant to contact adult care because they are scared that it may trigger an intrusive and oppressive review.

* Pre-payment cards are being used to control service users – again, social workers and service users believe, to reduce budgets.

* Management are pushing practices that would appear to be unlawful under Care Act guidance: e.g. assessments dependent on agreeing to accept a pre-payment card; offsetting carer support against personal budgets/packages of care.

* Social workers are experiencing dwindling community/voluntary resources but being put under pressure to refer service users to them because they are of no cost to the authority.

SWAN’s Conclusions

* SWAN believe that Bristol City Council Adult Care Services have listened respectfully to what we have to say.

* BCC accepts the problems of austerity and cuts but insist that the Better Lives model (bought for an undisclosed cost from Impower the social care consultancy firm) is good because it is both effective and social workers like it.

* The Council accepts that they need to ensure there is more discussion about these issues amongst social workers and this is going to be facilitated through the Social Work Board.

* They also accept that there needs to be far more service user involvement or co-production as they called it.

* Whilst SWAN is pleased to have been given a hearing and to have had some of its arguments accepted, we do not believe Adult Care Services are going to do anything about the poor state of services for older and disabled people in Bristol, beyond raising the issues internally.

* SWAN does not know how any progress will be monitored and evaluated.

* Fundamentally, there was no acceptance that a change of direction was required to make things better for both service users and social workers.

* SWAN believes that Bristol City Council needs to fight back against central government’s continuing policy of austerity which Bristol Council have put into action by making huge cuts to services at all levels.

* Bringing care services back into local authority democratic control would be a start to ensuring service users get the services they require, and for which the local authority would be accountable.

* The involvement of service users in the planning and delivery of services would ensure that those services meet their expressed needs.

More information and details of these concerns, and the Bristol City Council response

The Social Work Action Network (SWAN) is a radical, campaigning organisation of social work and social care practitioners, students, service users, carers and academics. We are united by, amongst other things, our concern to challenge the disastrous effect of austerity on social care, and the domination of social work and social care services by managerialist perspectives and practices which prioritise budgets, targets and outcomes over the needs of the people who use services. We campaign nationally and regionally against injustice and the marginalisation of service user’s interests and social work professionalism.

Some service users with substantial needs are required to keep detailed diaries of their daily living. Managers then require social workers to study the diaries, looking for parts of the day when care or support from personal assistants is not needed. Those periods (sometimes of only 15 minutes) are then totalled up and reframed as opportunities for independence, when care is not required. Their personal budgets are reduced accordingly. This is even being applied where an individual has been assessed as requiring 24 hour care for their safety and well-being.

Some service users have been allocated a pre-paid card to buy their care, as is their choice according to the law. We have information that service users are being

threatened with withdrawal of resources if they do not accept a pre-paid card even if they do not want one. The pre-paid card is like a credit card that has a service user’s personal budget added. They can then spend the amount allocated following assessment of their needs, on the services and resources that they believe will meet those assessed needs. It is useful for some service users but others find it intrusive and restrictive. Council like them because they can monitor expenditure more easily – how much is being spent, and on what. It also, as the manufacturers indicated in their sales pitch, means that Councils can reduce a service user’s allocation much more easily.

One area of focus for Bristol’s Better Lives programme is on community resources. SWAN is very committed to this as a way of working – ensuring service users can receive the services they require in their local communities, but again, the ravages of national austerity policy means there are fewer of these services available. We raised the issue of accessibility to these community resources. Social Workers are being pressured into referring service users to these services even though, without adequate transport or support available, they are not readily accessible.

SWAN strongly argues that genuine co-production with service-users is essential. It is our view that involvement by service users in policy, practice and service development in Bristol, is tokenistic and that BCC needs to prioritise this way of working. SWAN argue that knowledge and expertise required is already in the city, and that both Disabled People’s Organisations and SWAN are sources of advice.

Social Workers have given us information suggesting that BCC management is pressurising them to act unlawfully. 1) There is evidence of service users being told their level of personal budget is dependent on accepting a pre-paid card. 2) Social workers are being told to include care provided by relatives as part of their assessed needs. Both of these practices are outside of The Care Act guidance.

For further information please get in touch with the South West region SWAN contact:

Mark Baldwin (Dr), Senior Lecturer in Social Work (retired)

Mobile: 07757506472 Email:

Mental Health Social Workers Strike In Solidarity With Admin Workers

Mental health social workers join Avon and Wiltshire admin workers to protest against cuts to staffing at the NHS Trust.  

Administrative staff working for an NHS mental health Trust covering a large area of the South West of England are fighting bosses’attempts to drastically cut back on admin capacity, a move which local Unison reps say will severely jeopardise the quality and safety of mental health care.

The Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust (AWP) are proposing to save £500,000 by cutting and downgrading large swathes of admin staff. There is talk of 74 fewer Band 4 posts and staff forced to reapply for a reduced pool of Band 3 posts, with specialist medical secretary jobs, for example, absorbed into generic the Band 3 administrator role, and the introduction of cheaper Band 2 apprentices to fill some of the gaps.

As one admin worker commented, ‘It is difficult for me to accept that one day I will be coming into work on a Band 4 and the next I will be working on a Band 3, when my work will not have changed one iota.  The Job Descriptions may be new but the actual day-to-day work will be exactly the same.’ In fact, not only are both administrative and clinical staff already over-stretched in terms of workloads, but many admin staff are also working beyond their band.

Furthermore, this attack on what are overwhelmingly women workers goes completely against the Trust’s stated commitments to significantly narrow the already large gender pay gap in the AWP. 

The proposals come against a backdrop of a crisis nationally in mental health care.  On the 22nd October this year the Trade Union Congress (TUC) released a report showing how the decreasing provision of mental health services across the UK is coinciding with increasing demand (i.e. rising mental health need). Thus, over the last five years, the number of patients accessing mental health services in England has risen by a third (540,000), yet over the same period the number of mental health nurses, doctors and beds in the country has fallen. This has meant ‘huge pressure on the workforce and left mental health services struggling to staff services safely’, and consequently this ‘is ‘having a negative effect on patients who use these services and on the health and safety of the staff who provide them’ (p. 14) (TUC, 2018, Breaking Point: the crisis in mental health funding. Available at:

Whilst it’s complicated to calculate the scale of this cut to administrative capacity in the AWP, we are looking at up to a 40% reduction. Thus, in a context of a 34% rise in patient demand across of the South West of England (TUC, 2018), far fewer staff will be expected to cover the same (and growing) amount of work.

The proposals will have a very big impact on clinical staff, including social workers who perform care coordination and/or assessment roles, as well as other specialist clinical interventions. Reduced administrative support means even less space both to develop therapeutic relationships with service users and to properly reflect together with colleagues on our practice and to deepen understanding and skills outside a narrow medicalising framework.

Such implications are reflected in the solid support from clinicians for the admin workers’ campaign to oppose the administrative review proposals. A recent Unison-organised Day of Action on Thursday 6th December saw hundreds of AWP staff from a variety of professional specialisms engage in lunch time walk-outs across all the main localities of the Trust: North Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset, and Wiltshire. Apart from immediate dangers to staff well-being, and quality and safety of care, clinical staff including social workers know very well that if these proposals go through, they will themselves be a lot more vulnerable to future restructuring and levelling down.

Unison is now preparing for an indicative ballot of admin staff as the next step towards industrial action against the proposed changes ,and will continue to liaise with health campaigners, service users and their family members/loved ones.

Messages of support please to

[photos at: ]