Against ATOS: Festive Month of Action – December 3rd and December 16th, London

Atos are the French IT firm responsible for carrying out the government’s Work Capability Assessment which has led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being forced into poverty after being stripped of essential benefits.  Despite the process being dubbed unfit for purpose and an increasing number of suicides due to the stressful and vicious health testing regime, this form of assessment is to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit.
When not bullying disabled people Atos are also the official IT partners of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Join us to ensure that Atos do not receive one ounce of positive publicity from this role, as they champion their support for disabled athletes with one hand whilst destroying the lives of of disabled and sick benefit claimants with the other.
On December 3rd, International Disabled People’s Day, protesters will be gathering outside the entrance of the Olympic Park in Stratford at the Paralympic Goalball test event.  Join us from 2pm and let’s show the world what Atos really think about disabled people.
Bring banners, placards, noise!
Travel to Stratford station (DLR, Central/Jubilee Lines, London Overground) and then follow the indications to the Olympic Park entrance via Westfield Stratford City shopping centre. The route from the station to the entrance of the Olympic Park is approximately 600 metres.
Facebook page:
A Real Victorian Christmas Party and Picnic at Triton Square
Friday 16th December – 2pm
Triton Square , London NW1
Join us at the home of poverty pimps Atos for a Christmas Party to celebrate the continuing struggle against disability deniers Atos.
As part of the month of festive action against Atos and the benefit cuts, disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters will be visiting French IT company Atos’ gleaming corporate headquarters to celebrate the real Victorian Christmas being inflicted on hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people this Christmas.
As Atos CEO Keith Wilman tucks into his organic tax-payer funded Christmas turkey, hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled will be spending Christmas terrified a letter from his company may land on their doorstep demanding that they attend one of Atos’ notorious ‘Work Capability Assessments’.  These flawed tests have led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being forced into poverty after being stripped of essential benefits.
Despite the process being dubbed unfit for purpose and an increasing number of suicides, due to the stressful and vicious health testing regime, this form of assessment is to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit.
Join us on Friday 16th December at 2pm as we continue the struggle against the unending war on benefit claimants and disabled people.  We will not pay for their crisis.
Bring scabies, TB, rickets, begging bowls and child labour*.  Peelers not invited.
*Also banners, placards, food to share, leaflets, noise.
Atos are based at Triton Square , less than five minutes walk from Warren Street and Great Portland Street tube stations and less than ten minutes from Euston.

Main Month of Action event page:
More details:

Resistance to the laws criminalising homeless people in Hungary – an update

Social worker Norbert Ferencz, was placed on probation for three years last Friday for protesting a recently enacted by-law in District VIII in Budapest, aimed at the homeless, that forbids scavenging in bins. Norbert with his group Új Szemlélet Csoport had staged a protest in March, where the directive was defied. Under the by-laws, pushed through by the local council’s Fidesz mayor Máté Kocsis, since January rummaging through bins entails a fine of up to HUF 50,000 (EUR 160.60). Ferencz urged attendees of the protest to defy the ban, and he subsequently appeared in court on a charge of incitement.

SWAN condemn this outrageous action and offer solidarity to Hungarian colleagues and comrades.

The petition in Norbert’s support is here. (NB: apologies for spelling mistakes and date inaccuracies in the original petition statement, these are not amendable).

On a hopeful note, please see the fantastic resistance from our colleagues in Hungary in the two videos below. These actions were lead by The City is for All, a grassroots homeless rights advocacy group itself led by homeless people. The first action was a demonstration, the second a sit-in. These were both against the criminalization of the homeless in Budapest.

Sit in against criminalization of homelessness in Budapest inside the offices of mayor, Máté Kocsis – October 17, 2011.


Demonstration against criminalization of homelessness in Budapest in the offices of mayor, Máté Kocsis – 11th November, 2011. You can read a full report of the  action here.

The amendment of the Petty Offence Law was unfortunately passed by the Hungarian Parliament on 14th November, 2011, and takes effect from 1st December, 2011. This makes it possible to fine people “residing in public spaces” up to 530 euros or 60 days of imprisonment, if “the crime” is committed twice in 6 months.

The resistance goes on…

Manchester SWAN meeting

First Manchester SWAN meeting


The first Manchester SWAN meeting will be held on Monday 28th November at 7.30 at the RAPAR office in the Friends Meeting House in Manchester city centre. The meeting will be the first time that a lot of us have met and so we will use it as an opportunity to introduce ourselves and to talk about the direction in which we want to take Manchester SWAN. If you live, work or study in Manchester and have an interest in joining us then we would welcome your contributions.

If you are planning to attend then please send an email to so we know how many to expect.

We hope to see you there

N30 march and rally – Liverpool

November 30th will see up to 3 million workers out on strike against the government’s pension reforms – the biggest day of industrial action since the general strike in 1926.

In Liverpool on N30 there will be a march from the Pier Head, assembling from 11.30am and leaving at 12pm. The pensions fight is part of a wider fight against austerity measures that affect working class people everywhere – whether you’re a public sector worker, a service user, a student, unemployed or facing cuts in your local community – join the Liverpool Against the Cuts bloc and make N30 a massive day of resistance to ALL cuts.


Norbert Ferencz is NOT the sinner! Statement from our Hungarian colleagues

The Új Szemlélet group has already brought remarkable professional reformation. Besides the mostly individual-based social work (which is common in Hungary), it points out the group- and community character and the interest advocacional function of social work.  This approach is equal to the inernational Code of Ethics developed by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) which has been internationally accepted for decades.
The group has stood out in street protests for those in need since March 2011, when dr. Máté Kocsis, mayor of Budapest’s 8th district and Fidesz-KDNP’s Member of Parlament classified dumpster diving and living on street as a misdimeanor, punishable with fining or (in case of unability to pay the fines) imprisonment. So did Norbert Ferencz at the musical, dumpster diving demonstration that became the object of his trial. In accordance to the values set in the Code of Ethics and his Professional Oath, he stood out against the municipal orders that criminalize homelessness, and called upon the solidarity of all present.
His actions have been considered by the 8th District Prosecutor’s Office as an act of incitement against the law. On the 4th of November 2011, the Pest Central District Court found him guilty on the first stage and sentenced him to 3 years probation.
This young socail worker’s vocational behavior and it’s legal judgement – as a social message – started a new chapter in the history of social work in Hungary. Therefore the question is rightful: will conscientious social work in Hungary from now on necessarily be against the law?!
The Social Vocational Federation – as the largest professional association of social workers – considers:

1. Instead of criminalizing homelessness, social workers find that integrated homeless-strategy and complex problem handling are the acceptable social reactions. The solutions must involve securing the minimum of subsistance: (besides the currently deficient monetary aid) more feeding possibilities (free meals, food banks,  etc.), real housing in accordance with human dignity, social housing and rental assistance programs, the utilization of presently empty apartments in the matter of these.
2. The values and norms of social work are made clear in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the convention about Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, promulgated with the 1993 XXXI. law, dated in Rome on the 4th of November 1950.

3.  The Ombudsman explored constitutional concerns about the incriminated law. According to the report made in June 2011 by the Ombudsman’s Office, the regulation is contrary to the principle of equal treatment.

4. The arrangements made in Budapest are contrary to the European Homelessness Strategy accepted by the European Parlament.

5. Norbert Ferencz and all participants of the demonstration acted in accordance with the Code of Ethics, their vocational values and norms.

Therefore we protest cancelling the regulation banning dumpster diving and all similar laws, and developing humane solutions in collaboration with the affected and the social professionals. The Social Vocational Federation will stand out against the socially unfair laws with all – possibly legal – tools.
In this case, when the proceedings are pending, we have to make it known to the publicity and the government that the representatives of social work are willing to make a living chain demonstration on the day of the second stage of Norbert Ferencz’s trial against the abominable and dissembler regulations, hoping that many will join the action.

Budapest, 9th of November 2011. 

Inspiring performance and sit in against Hungary’s criminalisation of the homeless

In opposition to the proposal by local mayor Mate Kocsis to impose a 530 euros fine on homeless people or 60 days of imprisonment for “residing in public places”, The City is for All held a large demonstration on 11th November followed by a sit-in in the municipality building which ended in arrests.

SWAN once again extends its support and solidarity to the campaign. Read more on the protest here.


Choose Youth Rally – October 25th

There was a fantastic turnout for Choose Youth; not the 10,000 which Unite over-optimistically called for but perhaps a thousand young people and youth workers filling the lovely Westminster Methodist hall. As with the earlier February rally in Solihull the speeches from young people were fantastic, and I don’t mean that in a tokenistic / condescending manner – I heard none of the simplistic ‘youth clubs keep us off the streets’ but instead speeches that were inspiring, thoughtful, original and rabble rousing. The crowd responded with great enthusiasm, giving a good energy to the event. The two young women from one of our Hackney groups were unable to come at the last minute (that’s youth work!!) and my colleague and I felt a bit sad about that, but it made us all the more impressed at how many young people had made it from all around the country. There was a fantastic rap from four young men from Bradford (who promised they’d send us their lyrics), a great speech from a young man from Wolverhampton, a young woman from Devon intelligently critiquing the National Citizen Service, and Dami Benbow, who spoke at the SWAN conference in Birmingham was brilliant – he just gets better and better at public speaking.

These Choose Youth events have challenged my view of youth democracy projects, which I thought rather elitist. Many of the young people speaking at the two national Choose Youth events are associated with youth councils, youth parliaments or young mayor projects; these young people mostly talk about how they became involved after a youth worker saw strength and determination where others had seen troublemaking and disruption, and they are mostly working class, and very often from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds.

The adults wisely kept their speeches a lot shorter than they had in Solihull, although the union reps did go on a bit. I don’t think I’m just being biased by saying that Kalbir Shukra (speaking for IDYW) was the best adult speaker, making the links between our struggle and struggles around the country and around the world, calling for solidarity rather than divisiveness She argued,

We cannot accept the wholesale destruction of our public services as a solution to the problems facing the rich – problems created by the corporate greed and bankers gambles that politicians supported. As we’ve already heard from speakers, our public services are being destroyed and its part of a massive assault on all working and middle class people – young and old, employed and unemployed, male and female.

But today is part of the spirit of resistance that we see spreading across the world. We are part of a rising world wide activist movement constantly inspiring and supporting each other – fighting for our rights, for our jobs, for services, for homes for freedoms. To strengthen our movements we have to keep connecting them. We have to refuse to be divided on the basis of one cut being kinder than another or some protestors being seen as criminals whilst others are respectable.

My colleague and I couldn’t stay for the whole day (with no young people having turned up we had to get back to Hackney to do some detached work instead!] but despite our occasional cynicism over these big ‘lobbying’ events we came away inspired. Whether anyone managed to change the mind of their MP is a reasonable question given the emphasis of the publicity (our own MP, Diane Abbott, didn’t even respond to our email), but whatever. Meeting up in numbers, talking and gaining strength, was life enhancing. Good on the unions for coordinating this (along with BYC and others). I can’t think of a better way for my subs to be spent.

Send us your ‘Frontline articles’: help tell the story of social work today


In daily working life social workers see, first hand, what poverty, inequality and oppression are doing to people’s lives. We should not keep silent.

We think the SWAN site can be a great public space for service users and workers to tell the world about the reality of modern social work. We want your stories – good, bad and tragic – and we will upload them for others to share. In this way we can start to think about the problems and human suffering we meet every day and, from here, start to think, collectively, about what we can and should do to bring about real change for the better to people’s lives.

Send your stories and articles to the SWAN site – and remember to let us know if you want to be named or not. We are willing to post articles anonymously to protect workers from managers who are only too willing to bully and harass those that speak out.

From Carerwatch: Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.

From Carerwatch: Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.

You can see the full petition on the Government website here , SIGN HERE:

If it gets 100,000 signatures it could generate a debate in Parliament.

There is massive concern over the huge extent of both the welfare reforms and the cuts. Too often when people speak up, their voice is fragmented and discounted. This is an opportunity to get everyone together to speak with one voice, and to register in one place, how many people are asking the government to listen.

Firstly – obviously – we ask you to sign this petition and persuade all your family and friends to do the same. The name of the game is numbers ; so please ask friends, family and any organisations you belong to to sign and get others to sign.

When you sign the petition you will see buttons for twitter and facebook; so please share it with others on Twitter and Facebook.  Let Pat know she has your support by leaving a comment here too.
The first signatures will be the hardest to get, while we get this juggernaut rolling, so please help now and make sure that this petition really takes off.

This petition will only succeed if everyone joins together to support it.

Organisations on board so far that have agreed to help raise awareness of Pat’s Petition are:
Disability Alliance
The Broken of Britain
Benefits and Work
Pain Concern
Inclusion Scotland
Sue Marsh – Diary of a Benefit Scrounger
Carers Forum uk
University and College Union
The Afiya Trust
Benefits and Work
Scottish Council on Visual Impairment

Read more from Carerwatch here:

Cuts and reorganization: the reality of progressive mental health day services

I work for the NHS within Community Mental Health Services as part of a team whose remit was to enable service users to access educational and employment opportunities. We ran what I considered a unique and progressive service. We worked in a building not far from the city centre. We had an ICT suite where service users could gain qualifications and with our support create or update their CVs.

Within the centre we had a café where service users could gain work experience to gain relevant qualifications with currency in the catering industry. It was also a place where service users could come along for a hot meal, a coffee and a chat.

Our reception was also staffed by service users gaining work experience and relevant qualifications. We delivered in house courses in Building Confidence and Self Esteem. The team alongside ex service users also developed and delivered workshops to service users based on the Recovery Model. We worked closely with local education providers delivering courses such as: Rights and Responsibilities at Work, Working in Retail, Working in an Office, Working in Customer Services and Working in the Public Sector. We also worked closely with Welfare Rights who regularly delivered workshops and advice sessions on benefits, debt and housing issues. We also had thriving Art and Drama projects which rebuilt the confidence of people who had endured a variety of mental health difficulties.

The whole project was person-centred, the idea being that it was a sort of stepping stone which gave them renewed self confidence and skills to move on with our advice, guidance and support into mainstream opportunities to enhance their life chances.

Then came the reorganization. The reorganization was pushed through using ideas and progressive language originally developed through the previous New Labour government’s Social Inclusion Unit. Day Centres we were told were bad, they simply institutionalized people with mental health difficulties. The whole new focus was to create services without buildings.

During my time working in Mental Health Services I have seen some pretty awful places. Day Centres which offered patronizing services that oozed with boredom with no real progression for service users. Our project was not like this.
The NHS Trust I work for was at the time of our reorganization looking at squeezed budgets and the cost incurred in leasing buildings. They do have a building programme for new inpatients units, but as yet not one brick has been laid and in some instances planning permission is not yet approved, yet they closed the only inpatient ward in the City.

Our project has changed beyond recognition. Some staff will be taking pay cuts in the reorganization which has had a massive impact on morale.  We are now expected to record all service user contacts and outcomes from each appointment on 3 separate and different I.T. systems. But more importantly we can no longer deliver the range of opportunities to service users. Everything has to be accessed in the wider community. The café and service user reception has gone. We cannot make appointments to see service users in the building when we are offering advice, guidance and support. We now have to go out in twos to the service users home to ascertain from the service user what we can do for them to promote their social inclusion. The outcomes of the first contact with the service user are discussed at a team meeting and then a member of the team (an education worker, employment worker, volunteer coordinator, arts worker, sports worker) is allocated to the service user, depending on what kind of ambitions they have. This is followed by a telephone call to the service user and arrangements are made to meet them somewhere in the community. The advice from the trainers from the Social Inclusion Unit was that a café may be a suitable venue for the first appointment. Yes a public place when the service user may be disclosing personal and often quite distressing information.

As a team we are now finding that many opportunities in the community for our service users: colleges, arts projects, leisure centres, etc are few and far between because of the current round of cuts .The local council has made cuts to the passport to leisure scheme which helped people on benefits access leisure centres etc. The local colleges have changed the criteria for fee wavering for people on benefits meaning that many of our service users are unable to access educational opportunities. As the cuts start to bite deeper there will be fewer and fewer opportunities for our services users in the wider community

To make staff morale worse our building may be given to different teams within the Trust. We have recently heard that we may be supplied with laptops and work from our cars, dropping into Trust buildings to use docking stations to send data to the I.T. systems. We will probably end up as lone workers apart from one afternoon per week when we attend a caseload allocation meeting. It seems to me that our service has now been slimmed down to such an extent it is ripe and ready for privatization.

Welcome to modern, progressive mental health day services in 21st Century Britain

CPS threaten to make Manchester family with baby homeless

A Manchester family faces eviction from their home in Longsight. If the police are successful, a family with a young baby and an eight year old child will be made homeless, their home seized, and the proceeds of the sale given over the Magistrates Court.

Read more here

Sign the petition to stop the sale and eviction here:

Stuart Syvret, campaigner for rights of children and careleavers, jailed in Jersey

Stuart Syvret, former Senator in Jersey, who has consistently and courageously campaigned for the rights of children and careleavers and has exposed serious crimes against children on the island,  was jailed on Wednesday 2nd November 2011. Stuart lost his appeal on 7th November and therefore remains in prison.  

The hearing was the culmination of a long legal process which began when Stuart was charged with data protection and minor motoring offences in 2009 which ended last week when he was jailed by Magistrates for failing to carry out community service for contempt of court.The charge related to a six-month period where Syvret left Jersey for the UK instead of facing trial in Jersey.But the 45-year-old yesterday vowed to bring a ‘habeas corpus’ hearing – a rare court action used to free a prisoner from illegal detention – later this week.

Please send messages of support to:

 Stuart Syvret (K Wing)
 HMP La Moye
 Rue Baal
 St Brelade

Stuart has asked that UK campaigners should contact their MPs urgently to request their support of John Hemming’s early day motion.


Mr. Hemmings EDM. (2370)

“That this House notes the imprisonment of Stuart Syvret; believes that the public authorities of the island of Jersey do not operate in a manner compliant with the requirements of the European Commission of Human Rights (ECHR), there being overt and significant overlaps and contaminations between the legislature, executive and judiciary; further notes that Her Majesty’s subjects in Jersey are not protected by effective checks and balances, and that there has been the political repression of former Chief Police Officer, Graham Power and former Senator Stuart Syvret; further notes that, notwithstanding the responsibility the Secretary of State for Justice has for good governance and Convention Rights in Jersey, the island’s authorities are permitted to repress opposition activists, and that the Secretary of State for Justiceand Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor have failed to act; further notes that successive governments of the United Kingdom have committed this nation to securing real democratic freedoms and the rule of law in other jurisdictions, yet in the British enclave of Jersey on the United Kingdom’s very doorstep, ordinary powerless people are oppressed by an entrenched oligarchy; and calls on the Secretary of State for Justice to appoint an independent Commission similar to that which investigated corruption in the Turks and Caicos Islands, to investigate the conduct of Jersey’s public administration and to urgently bring the protections of the ECHR to Her Majesty”

Some history of crimes against children in Jersey ‘care’ homes

Jersey is 9 miles by 5 miles. It is ruled by an oligarchy voted into the government as independent candidates. A one-party system. It is not part of the UK or the EU. It is a Crown Dependency and UK Ministers have a duty to maintain the rule of law in Jersey. There have been some attempts to enforce the UK’s legal responsibilities in Jersey in relation to the child abuse investigations. 

The police investigation into Haut de la Garenne began in April 2006 after an investigation into abuse within the Jersey sea scouts. It was conducted secretly for 12 months. More than 1000 children lived in the home from the 50’s to the 80’s. Roughly between 30 and 60 at one time. It was previously an industrial school since 1867 and then since 1900 Jersey Boys Home. It was called Haut de la Garenne since 1960 and closed in 1986. Police interviewed over 160 witnesses and had over 40 suspects. In the 70’s Edward Paisnel who abducted and abused children and was convicted of sex offences, visited the home as Father Christmas.

Jersey police have put forward a number of prosecutions but the police expressed concern. “I can quite clearly say that the investigation is being held up. There are people on the island who just don’t want us going down the route of this inquiry” Lenny Harper – former Deputy Chief Officer Jersey police. Harper has said that the Jersey legal system is held in contempt by the vast majority of the victims. 

Care leavers have reported being kept naked in punishment cells, taken to a bath in cold water and through a secret passage to chambers where staff and the guests of staff had drunken parties and sexually abused them. They speak of suicides of their friends (Michael Collins age 14 was found hanging in the 60’s) of children disappearing and of hearing screams and banging. They report being taken to people on boats, celebrities at the Opera House and to people outside the home. The home is in a very isolated situation and overlooks the harbour and the castle. 

Yet, in May 2008 Jersey’s Bailiff, the island’s Chief Judge wrote about his dismay at journalists continuing to write about the Island’s so called child abuse scandal and subsequently the investigations have been brought to a close. 

The police investigation was unprecedented because of police willingness to listen to the accounts of care leavers and survivors and also in the intensity of forensic investigation. The police have spoken about finding the remains of at least 5 children age between 4 and 11 years. There have been over 100 children’s bones found as well as 65 children’s teeth with roots said to have come out after death. Some of the bones had been cut indicating murder. The police were looking at the period of the 60’s and 70’s particularly. The bones had been burnt and attempts made to hide the remains. 4 punishment rooms were found and a concrete blood stained bath with shackles on the wall. The police also found two pits with lime in them which is known to be used to speed decomposition. 

The Jersey Care Leavers Association has a steady core of members many of whom were in Haut de la Garenne and other Jersey children’s homes. They held a meeting at the House of Commons. The JCLA say it isn’t all about Haut de la Garenne because there were at least 5 other children’s homes on the island. UK children were placed in Jersey children’s homes. UK children were sent on ‘holiday’ to Haut de la Garenne children’s home. Children from Haut de la Garenne were sent to the UK for holidays.

There should have been a UK joint police/social work organised child abuse investigation tasked with finding out what has happened to these children who are now adults.

Two websites for Jersey care leavers ;


Davies L (2008) We must support the Jersey survivors. Society Guardian online 1st August .

Fairweather E (2008) I have known about Jersey paedophiles for 15 years. I had so not wanted to be right. London. Mail on Sunday. 2nd March 

Fairweather E (2009) The alleged victims of the Jersey Child abuse Inquiry cannot expect justice reveals the detective at the centre of the case. April 19th Mail online.

Liz Davies
Reader in Child Protection
London Metropolitan University