Liverpool Against the Cuts – monthly meeting 10th November

Liverpool Against the Cuts seeks to develop a co-ordinated fight back to the government cuts hitting Liverpool. The group is comprised of trade unionists, students, community and political campaigners and seeks to attract as many like minded people as possible from the Merseyside area.

The monthly meeting of Liverpool Against the Cuts comes on the eve of what is potentially the biggest strike inBritain since the 1926 General Strike… if we make it happen. The meeting takes place on 10th November 2011, 7pm – 9pm at Jack Jones House (Unite the Union) Liverpool L3 8EF.

On November 30th up to 3.2 million public sector workers will be out on strike, joined by thousands more students, service users, community campaigners, the unemployed and the ongoing ‘Occupy’ movement that has brought the failings of the system to the fore. Come along to this vital LATC organising meeting to make sure the strike in Liverpool sees the co-ordination and concentration of anger and action to hit the cutters hard- come plan for a massive march through our streets, for visits to picket lines, leafleting of workplaces and the central involvement of community campaigns.

Let’s make N30 a festival of resistance in Merseyside. All welcome

Press release: new SWAN website launched on 25th October 2011

The site is aimed at social work practitioners, educators, students, social welfare service users and campaigners who are concerned by the increasing marketisation of social work, the stigmatisation of service users and the impact of the Government’s austerity measures on social work and social care.

The site will be an important resource for all these groups, with new website features including: integration with social media such as twitter and facebook, an improved discussion forum, links to relevant articles from around the web, resources to download such as our pamphlets and the Practice Notes series, and regional webpages run by local SWAN groups around the UK. The site will continue to carry reports on SWAN’s activities and critical analysis of trends in social work policy.

SWAN National Convenor, Michael Lavalette comments: “social work is facing immense challenges. The massive cuts in services are having a negative impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. In the workplace managerial control, huge workloads and a target setting culture make it difficult to work in ways that match our value base. We didn’t come into social work for this!

The new SWAN website will provide resources and space for frontline workers, service users and all those interested in social work to debate the problems we face and consider ways forward. The Practice Notes series will provide practical solutions to a range of issues, whilst the web resources will give a concise summary of media articles that relate to social work which will help SWAN website users keep up to date with social work debates.

We think the new SWAN website can provide essential resources for all those interested in social work’s future.”
Information about the website:
    •    Full Facebook and Twitter functionality built in to all articles
    •    New improved discussion forum –
    •    Downloadable documents and Powerpoint presentations
    •    Practice Notes and pamphlets:
    •    Conference 2012 information:
    •    Regional SWAN webpages:
    •    Contact SWAN at

Please contact ‘National SWAN’ by clicking here if you would like more information.

Presentations from SWAN Conference 2011

Information about plenary speakers:

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.

Presentation title:

‘Grassroots struggles in post-apartheid South Africa: What should Social Work do?’

Download Linda’s presentation below.

Regional SWAN Groups

SWAN has regional and local groups around the UK, from Bristol and South West England to Scotland.

You will find webpages for these groups by following the ‘About SWAN’ drop down menu to the right.

If you would like to contact SWAN activists in your area click on the ‘contact’ link on these regional pages. If your region is not listed contact ‘National SWAN’ via email by clicking here and we will put you in touch with SWAN supporters where you are.

After SWAN Conference 2011: Why UNISON needs to lead the fightback

On Friday 15th April I attended my first Social Work Action Network (SWAN) 6th National Conference in collaboration with In Defence of Youth Work. Although an annual conference took place in summer 2010 in Glasgow, the above was arranged in Birmingham in response to the level of cuts proposed by the Coalition Government.

SWAN is comprised of social work practitioners, academics, students and 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.

There were a variety of speakers, ranging from those working in the profession, to UNISON activists, to service users relating their experiences, to disabled activists at the forefront in fighting the austerity measures, to international practitioners, researchers and activists. I attended the workshop entitled: ‘Educate, Agitate, Organise: UNISON responses to the Big Society’. The presenters were Helga Pile – UNISON National officer for Social Care, Helen Davies – Branch Chair Barnet UNISON & adult’s social worker, Simon Cardy – UNISON Steward Wolverhampton Branch & children’s social worker, Sharon Campion – Sandwell UNISON, Social Work Convenor and Independent reviewing officer.

I expressed my deep concerns at the meeting with regard to the level of resistance taken by UNISON in response to the fiercest levels of cuts on an unprecedented scale since the Second World War. I described the recent UNISON member’s meeting I attended in Coventry, where UNISON’s magnificent alternative budget was launched. I was in awe to see that finally my union was beginning to rise from its knees. Unfortunately, short lived, and my disappointment soon returned, as the branch officers then immediately invited discussion on compulsory redundancies.

Numerous attendees at the SWAN workshop demanded that UNISON direct and lead a viable and constructive fight back. Numerous attendees insisted UNISON call a general strike in unity with all other unions. Once again, a UNISON official managed to incite nothing but disappointment with a non-committal and passive response for the audience.

There were three vibrant international perspectives presented at Conference from South Africa, Greece and following the Arab revolutions. They discussed social work in their international context and the resistance against the cuts and privatisation methods attempted.

John McArdle, from Black Triangle Campaign, (disability rights campaigner) introduced a session on ‘Building Alliances to Defend Services’. He informed conference of the recent suicide of a service user. He stated the service user had left just two letters behind him to explain his actions. The first letter was from the Benefits Agency informing him his Disability Benefit would now cease. The second letter was from his local Housing Department informing him his Housing Benefit would now cease.

I fear if these cuts go unopposed, many more of us will have first-hand knowledge and experience of such horrors. The most vulnerable sections in society have already begun to see no other alternative than to take their own lives as a direct consequence of these atrocious cuts. Cuts to people’s benefits and care packages result in further intensified poverty and despair to an already marginalised section of society.

A divided house is easier to destroy. Therefore collective strike action from all public and private sector unions in the form of a general strike can be the only recourse left. There are tens of millions of people in this country who work in the public sector and/ or use our services. Solidarity across all professions and service users as exemplified by our contemporaries in Greece, Egypt, and South Africa are the examples we should be now be looking to. Please UNISON lead a fight-back, before more people die.

July 2011

Previous SWAN Conference resources

In this section you will find resources from previous SWAN conferences such as speaker info, powerpoint presentations, papers and abstracts.

This section is still under construction, but we hope to have further materials from the most recent SWAN Conference which was held in Birmingham in April 2011 posted up in the linked ‘Conference 2011‘ section in the near future.

Some limited information from ‘Conference 2010′ in Glasgow is also available.

If you would like to ensure you are notified when such content is added then we recommend you sign up for our email newsletter here.

October 2011: New edition of Dispatches from the Frontline newsletter

The latest newsletter includes articles on strikes by social workers in Southampton and Birmingham against austerity cuts to pay and pensions; a critical overview of the Munro Review of child protection; an analysis of social enterprises and social work practices and their implications for practice; a discussion of the link between privatisation of social care and the abuse of learning disabled residents at the private Winterbourne View Hospital; and a member of the Case Con radical social work collective in the 1970s considers lessons from that period for today’s struggles. There is also a round up of SWAN activities and events from around the regions.


Please forward this newsletter as widely as possible to your colleagues and networks.

Dispatches encourages SWAN members and supporters to write about activities, actions, meetings, and debates in your group/region for the next newsletter so please send in your articles, news, comment and photos to Dispatches by clicking here.


Analysis. This part of the website focuses on developing a more detailed analysis and critique of contemporary UK social work policy. This is divided into two sections.

The Social Work and Social Care section covers broader policy developments such as the Dilnot Review of social care funding and the privatisation of social work via social work practices.

The Social Work Reform Board section includes articles on the Task Force, Reform Board and Munro Review – set up in the wake of the death of baby Peter Connelly.

Contributions from practitioners, service users, carers and students are equally valued. We encourage you to contribute yourself: please submit any articles by email to the SWAN Dispatches Newsletter.

SWAN London news roundup September 2011

SWAN  London has joined forces with other campaigns and events over the summer. SWAN London representatives spoke at the protest over Elaine McDonald’s treatment by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (a woman whose night time care was cut, which left her wearing pads overnight, despite being fully continent). You can see more here:

SWAN London also lent its name to a joint letter to put pressure on BMJ/RCN recruitment fairs to ban Atos Origin, the private company responsible for discriminatory assessments of benefit claimants on Employment and Support Allowance:

A SWAN London representative also spoke on social work and campaigning at a national student conference organised by BASW in June and addressed the new student cohort at London South Bank University. The group has also launched a blog at:

Report by Dan Morton

SWAN members supported a small but lively lobby on 4th August 2011 at St Pancras Hospital in London against mental health cuts at the Camden & Islington Foundation Trust. The lobby was called by the Defend Whittington NHS campaign .  The Trust proposes to implement massive cutbacks – 60 staff will lose their jobs, as well as pay cuts for many remaining staff, the closure of 100 beds, and the replacement of trained staff with unqualified workers. The lobby was attended by social workers, service users, nurses and local campaigners. Plans are being made for petitioning, a public meeting and further protests. For more info:

Report by Rich Moth

Social Work and Immigration Control Event in 2012

Following the April 2011 SWAN conference, a number of practitioners and activists have been involved in an ongoing dialogue around the questions of social work’s relationship with immigration control- and, in particular, how social workers can work alongside people subject to immigration control while avoiding collusion with the deeply racist and unjust practices and policies of the UK Border Agency.

This dialogue has led to a realisation that there is a need for a Day School on the subject of Social Work and Immigration Control, where participants can debate some of the issues and begin to formulate an anti-oppressive approach to social work practice with people whose immigration status is precarious.

The event is likely to happen at a venue in the West Midlands in early 2012.

If you are interested in taking part in the event, please contact Jolyon Jones ( or Dave Stamp

Report: Hands Off Brum Care and Support Services Campaign

July saw a month of action in Birmingham against cuts to and privatisation of social care and support services, with SWAN, UNISON Birmingham Branch, Disabled People Against The Cuts (DPAC), Right To Work and Birmingham Against the Cuts coming together to form the Hands Off Our Care and Support Services, Our Benefits and Our Futures campaign to resist vital services being attacked by the Con-Dem council .  Birmingham plans to cut over £33 million from adult social care services this year alone. This will rise to £118m by 2014/5, or around one third of the £330m cuts the council plans to make overall. In May 2011, a High Court Judicial Review ruled the social care cuts unlawful as the council had not fully carried out its obligations under disability discrimination legislation.

Campaigners lobbied Birmingham City Council meeting on 5th July to protest about these plans for savage cuts, and to oppose both the privatisation of social work via social enterprises and social work practices and the Government’s attacks on benefits for disabled people. Later in July, there was a public meeting organised by all five sponsoring groups. The organisations are now jointly preparing a detailed pamphlet arguing against this range of threats to services and benefits for disabled people, from council cuts in services, the privatisation of social work, to the cuts in benefits and the new medical assessment process. This will be published later this year.

Email if you would like to take part in the campaign.