Hands Off Brum Services – Lobby 5th July & Meeting 20th July

Birmingham Council has announced plans to cut care services to save £33.2m by increasing eligibility thresholds. This will mean five thousand people in the city losing vital support. Cuts include the closure of six older people’s residential homes, increased charges for personal care, and the loss of skilled care workers as services become increasingly reliant on lower paid casual staff. A recent Panorama on the abuse of disabled residents at the Castlebeck unit showed the horrific results of providing social care on the cheap through privatised companies. Yet now the council is also proposing to privatise social work services using social enterprises. This will mean social work is turned into a business and workers forced to compete for contracts.

In addition many of those affected by cuts, disabled people and those with severe and terminal medical conditions, are also being forced to undergo‘work capability assessments’ and declared fit for work by the hated multinational Atos Origin which will profit from an outsourced £300 million government contract. This system has already led several claimants to commit suicide.

However, care service users and social and care workers are increasingly questioning why they should pay for a crisis caused not by them but by bankers. And so care staff and their unions in Birmingham are joining forces with disabled people to save our services and campaign against these discriminatory cuts.

In May a High Court judge ruled Birmingham council’s plans were unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act and these cutback plans were put on hold. This is a fantastic victory but will only be the start of the fight back necessary. To build on this a joint campaign has been launched involving West Midlands SWAN, Disabled People Against the Cuts, Birmingham City Unison, Birmingham Against the Cuts and the Right to Work campaign.  We are planning a month of action in July against austerity measures in Birmingham to coincide with the first UK monitoring report of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Activities will include a lobby of the first full council meeting since the election at 5pm on 5th July, a public meeting on 20th July.

What you can do:

Tuesday 5th July from 5pm – LOBBY Birmingham Council – Lobby of the first full Birmingham council meeting since the election – assemble Victoria Square, Birmingham

Wednesday 20th July 630pm – 830pm – Public Meeting: Hands Off Our Care & Support Services – speakers from SWAN, Disabled People Against Cuts, Birmingham Unison, Birmingham Against the Cuts and Right to Work. Venue: Transport House – Unite (TGWU) Offices, 211 Broad Street, Birmingham B15

Pamphlet – Hands Off Our Care & Support Services campaign is producing a pamphlet about the cuts and what we can do to stop them – watch this space.

We invite you to join us in demanding better public services for service users, carers, support workers and social workers, not more cuts and marketization.

For more info email: handsoffbrumservices@gmail.com

Final programme for the 6th SWAN National Conference, with workshops

Social Work Action Network (SWAN) Conference 2011


Friday 15th April

11.30: Registration open

1.00 Introduction:

Professor Sue White – University of Birmingham (Critic of social work targets)

Michael Lavalette (SWAN National Convenor)

1.15 – 2.30:  Plenary: Challenging Cameron’s Big Society and fighting welfare cuts

Speakers: Bob Holman (community campaigner), Bob Williams-Findlay (Disabled People Against Cuts), and Helen Davies (Barnet  Alliance for Public Services/Unison activist)

2.35: Workshop streams

4.05: Break

4.30: Plenary: Social work and resistance across the globe

Speakers: Linda Smith (South Africa), Vassilis Ioakimides (Greece), and Miriyam Asfar (activist/researcher: Egypt and Arab revolutions)

5.45 – 6.45: Regional SWAN and IDYW network meetings

7.30 – late: Conference social (£5 for food & entertainment –see flyer below for details)


Saturday 16th April

10.00: SWAN AGM

11.00 Break

11.20: Plenary: led by young people (organized together with In Defence of Youth Work)

Speakers: Dami Benbow and Kalbir Shukra (activist/supporter of IDYW)

12.30: Lunch

1.30: Workshop streams

2.30: Break

2.50: Plenary with breakouts: Building Alliances to Defend Services

2.50 – 3.10 Introduction by John McArdle (Black Triangle Campaign), Karen Reissman (Unison/NHS anti-privatisation campaigner), and Education Activist Network speaker

3.15 – 4.10 Breakout sessions

4.15 – 4.40 Reconvene to feed back

4.45: Closing comments: SWAN Convenor

5.00 Conference ends


This programme with a full list of the workshop streams can be downloaded here.

Final list of speakers at SWAN conference 2011

Bob Holman

Bob Holman survived the London blitz then failed the eleven plus. However he made it to university. After being a child care officer, he was an academic for ten years. He left the chair in social policy at Bath University and, with his wife Annette, ran a project on a council estate. After a further 10 years, they moved to Easterhouse, Glasgow and, with residents, formed a locally-run project. He is the author of a book on Keir Hardie. A year ago, Annette nursed him through cancer. Now he is retired (ha ha) and helps look after two grandsons.

Bob Williams Findlay

Bob Williams-Findlay is a former Planning Officer with Birmingham Social Services and has trained social workers at the University of Birmingham as a Disability Equality and Human Rights Trainer. He shares many of the criticisms of social work practice vis-à-vis disabled people as expressed by Professor Mike Oliver.

His long association with the Disabled People’s Movement includes being Chair of the national civil rights organisation – British Council of Disabled People. Most recently he helped establish Disabled People Against Cuts as a campaigning group and has been an outspoken critic of both the Blairite “Social Care” agenda and Cameron’s “Big Society”.

Helen Davies

Helen Davies is a social worker for London Borough of Barnet, the Chair of the local Barnet UNISON branch as well as the local Trades Council. Helen is also a leading activist in the Barnet Alliance for Public Services campaign against the cuts. Barnet is a flagship Tory controlled local authority nicknamed “easyCouncil”, which is looking to privatise all of its services on top of the cuts to vital services.

Linda Smith

Linda Smith worked as a social worker for Child Welfare South Africa in the areas of community work and social action, child protection and child and family practice. Now a social work lecturer at the University of Witwatersand she has particular interests in social justice and human rights; radical social work; community work; anti colonial and critical discourse for social work; Freirian critical pedagogy and the roles of social movements in welfare and social change. Linda is currently completing her PhD on the subject of critical social work education and the imperative for social change. Linda is a trade unionist and a member of the South African Communist Party.

Vasilios Ioakimidis

Vasilios Ioakimidis teaches social work and social pedagogy at Liverpool Hope University and the University of Nicosia. His research interests include radical international social work. Along with Michael Lavalette he co-edited the book ‘Social Work in Extremis: Lessons for Social Work Internationally’ (Policy Press). Vasilios is a member of the SWAN National Steering Committee.

Miriyam Asfar

Miriyam Asfar is an activist and researcher. She will be speaking about the recent Egyptian and Arab revolutions.

Kalbir Shukra

Kalbir Shukra is an activist and supporter of IDYW. She has a history of youth and community work practice and teaching as well as community and union activity.

Dami Benbow

Dami Benbow is a student at Leeds University, is a former Deputy Young mayor and part of the Young Mayor network.

Karen Reissman

Karen Reissman is an elected member of Unison’s national health executive and campaigner against NHS privatisation. Karen was a mental health nurse for 25 years, before being sacked by Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust for ‘whistleblowing’ against the effects of cuts and privatisation. Karen is speaking in a personal capacity.

Jon McArdle

Jon McArdle is an activist with the Black Triangle Campaign in defence of disability rights in Scotland.

Disability activists fight back and win



Clearly this is great news and of significance for those who, like SWAN, are resisting cuts to social care services and welfare.

In this spirit, SWAN has been building links with disability activists. Bob Williams-Findlay from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), spoke at the recent SWAN national conference entitled ‘Building Alliances, Defending Services’. West Midlands SWAN has been invited to co-sponsor a meeting with DPAC and Right to Work in Birmingham during the week of action against Atos Origin and welfare cuts in May.

Atos Origin are the private sector organisation who have recently won a £300 million contract by the Coalition Government to carry out ‘work capability assessments’ on all of those claiming Incapacity Benefit; their job is to remove welfare from as many people as possible. The week of action starts on Monday 9th May with a picnic and party in Triton Square (near Warren Street tube), home of Atos’ head office, at 2pm. Please find further details of the plans for the week below:


SWAN encourages all service users, social workers, educators and students to join in with this week of action.

Coventry and Warwickshire SWAN meeting – 25th March

It is against this backdrop that it has become imperative for workers, trade unionists, students, academics, service users and citizens to unite to discuss the impact of these draconian policies and to develop strategies for resistance. This meeting aims to raise awareness about these and other issues and to establish an ad hoc committee to organise and co-ordinate future activities and to represent the sub region at regional and national events.

Who are the SWAN?

SWAN is a broad based democratic social movement of people who believe in a just, equal and free society and who reject the logic that capitalism is the only basis for ensuring this. Indeed, in keeping with the values and ethos of the Radical Social Work tradition, the orientation of SWAN is towards a socialist alternative to the current rampant and inhumane capitalist order. As the SWAN manifesto states. “SWAN is a loose network of social work practitioners, academics, students and social welfare service users united in their concern that social work activity is being undermined by managerialism and marketisation, by the stigmatisation of service users and by welfare cuts and restrictions. We believe that good social work is a worthwhile activity that can help people address the problems and difficulties in their lives. Many of these difficulties are rooted in the inequalities and oppressions of the modern world and good social work necessarily involves confronting such structural and public causes of so many private ills.”

Who should attend?

Although, as noted above, historically linked to the re emerge of radical social work, SWAN is becoming a broad alliance of social workers, youth workers, community workers and other ‘human services’ workers that are concerned about the attacks on their respective professionals. So, the meeting is open to social work/youth work/community work students, trade unionists academics, practitioners and service users. ALL are welcome!

When and where is the event?

3-5 PM on 25th March 2011 , @Coventry University, Room RCG33, Richard Crossman Building, Jordan Well, Coventry CV1. Number 20 on the below location map: http://wwwm.coventry.ac.uk/university/maps/Pages/Campusmap.aspx


The event will be very participative so there will be ample opportunity for all to contribute. To frame the discussion, there will be two brief presentations from: Maggie Lewis, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Coventry University and local SWAN organiser and Rich Moth, SWAN West Midlands Coordinator and member of National committee.

There is no need to book a place – just turn up! For further information email Gurnam Singh at g.singh@coventry.ac.uk or John Harris at j.harris@warwick.ac.uk