Spirit of Christmas cheer evades Atos


Representatives of Mad Pride, Defend Welfare Network, Boycott Workfare, Winvisible, Islington Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle Campaign and Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group turned out to protest against Atos’ Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) for Employment and Support Allowance.

Some attendees dressed in Victorian garb to represent a comparison of the social policy which Atos are helping to manifest with that of Victorian times. It was a small but noisy demonstration and gave Atos the warning that we will all be back in the New Year.

Atos is being paid £100m a year to carry out the work capability assessments (WCAs), allowing the government to phase out incapacity benefit and replace it with the employment and support allowance (ESA).

The discredited WCAs themselves, the software which ‘assists’ the assessments (which misses nuanced and fluctuating conditions) and the centres in which these assessments occur (some of which are not wheelchair accessible), demonstrate Atos’ values and the real reason why they have been awarded this lucrative government contract: to meet sharp government quotas for reducing the number of people claiming Employment and Support allowance, rather than to assess and meet need. These assessments have led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being forced into poverty after being stripped of essential benefits. A number of suicides have been reported in the wake of WCAs.

To add grievous insult to injury, Atos are sponsoring the Paralympic Games (!) and Atos’ form of testing is soon to be extended to disabled and sick people claiming Disability Living Allowance.

Dan spoke on behalf of SWAN London at the demonstration and said he was proud to represent social workers who are appalled by the current assessment process and oppose it.

Pictures follow below of SWAN London members and others. Research on Atos’ Work Capability Assessments can be found here.








Stand up for gay rights in Nigeria


Dear friend,

I just added my voice to this urgent appeal, standing for human rights in Nigeria. Nigeria is pushing forward a law that would make it a punishable offense – of up to 14-years in prison – for anybody to go to a gay bar, to work for or be involved with LGBT organizations, or to be in an openly gay relationship.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan – who has said he wants to stake his presidency on improving access to healthcare and education in the country, can stop this bill – by refusing to sign it. Read – and sign – this powerful letter that Nigerian activist Ifeanyi Orazulike wrote to the president, asking him to stop this bill, so that Nigeria doesn’t place itself outside the community of democratic nations.

This Monday, Ifeanyi and other Nigerian activists are speaking out at the UN against this draconian bill with a simple message: We Are Not Illegal.

Ifeanyi is taking a stand. Will you take a minute to add your voice to his?



Opposition to the denial of legal aid to children

From the joint campaign:

‘The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill currently being considered by the House of Lords will deny more than 140,000 children a year the legal advice and representation that currently protects their rights and welfare.

Our poorest and most vulnerable families will lose legal aid for professional help with problems affecting their children related to education, medical negligence, welfare benefits, homelessness, and family separation.

We call on the Government to take a step back and consider the damaging impact on children of its legal aid proposals. And we urge Peers to support the amendment to the Bill proposed by Baroness O’Loan, Baroness Benjamin and Baroness Butler-Sloss to retain legal aid in cases where children are affected.’

Resistance in Barnet!

Barnet Carers Campaign Against Changes to Disability Support Services (CADDSS), was launched to defend those service users receiving critical and substantial care services from paying more. This campaign bringing together carers and service users is exactly the sort of campaign SWAN wants to help foster.

You can read more about the campaign here. For more information contact CADDSS by email CADDSS1@gmail.com or phone 07957 486379 to speak with Janet Leifer.

In addition Barnet Alliance for Public Services have been campaigning against the ‘One Barnet’ outsourcing programme in the borough and highlighting the links between Andrew Travers, Barnet Council’s deputy chief executive and Capita who are bidding for £750 million worth of business from Barnet Council. Download a newsletter of the alliance here.

Appeal for assistance with Atos Two – demonstration February 3rd

SWAN have received a letter from Notts Defence who are organising to defend to protestors who were arrested over protesting against Atos’ flawed work capability assessments. We urge members in the midlands (and outside) to support.

You may already be aware of the case against the ‘Atos Two’ (for links to Indymedia coverage please see below).

Following a protest at Atos “Healthcare” in Nottingham on September 30th a retired paediatric nurse and a wheelchair user were arrested and charged with aggravated trespass.

Since the arrest there have been amazing acts of solidarity by many people who e.g. send messages, signed a statement of support, spread the word, came to a solidarity demo outside the court etc.

Massive thanks to everyone!

After pleading not guilty on November 25th, the trial has been set for February 27th and 28th 2012 at Nottingham Magistrates Court.

There will be a solidarity demonstration outside Nottingham Magistrates Court on Monday February 27th from 9am.

There will be a demonstration in Nottingham against Atos, the attacks on the welfare system and the criminalisation of protests on Friday February 3rd 12.30pm.

Meet at the crossroads Carlton Street; Broad Street; Stoney Street (near Ice Nine). The demo route will be fully accessible though slightly hilly (this is Nottingham after all). The route will be less than one kilometre.

We are also planning a meeting/workshops to be held in Nottingham on the weekend before the trial (Saturday February 25th) to discuss political policing as well as attacks on benefit claimants. Further details to be announced asap.

We are looking for persons who would like to participate in planning this event. If you are interested in planning/attending/participating please contact nottsdefence@riseup.net

People are of course welcome to stay over for the trial!

We are also looking into possibilities for expert witnesses (e.g. campaigners, health workers) giving evidence at the trial itself. If you know persons who might be willing to give evidence regarding Atos in court, please contact nottsdefence@riseup.net If someone would be up for this please get in touch soon as the solicitor needs to know asap (essentially before X-Mas).

Further information/updates to be announced asap. Please circulate this message widely.

Thanks a lot.

Best wishes
Notts Defence

Manchester SWAN supports public sector workers

Manchester SWAN sent a small delegation of social work students from Uni of Manchester, Man Met and Salford to visit the picket line at Gorton Social Services. We showed solidarity with a small collection and card in support of the social services staff, from UNISON, GMB and UNITE, who had chosen to strike to defend pensions.

The picket line was fantastic, with workers from different social work offices passionately picketing what was being used as a scab centre for the city. Cars tooted their horns in support and we collected details of more people who want to fightback against the cuts and come to future SWAN meetings.

Many of us were also involved in the huge 20,000 demo in Manchester later on in the day, and were inspired by the volume of support by the people clapping and cheering the march, and the carnival-like atmosphere, as workers showed their power and shut down the city!

N30 strike report from Wolverhampton

In order to look after the children in our service both now and in the future, we need social care workers who not be worn out or exhausted and with a carrot of a reasonable pension at the end of our working life. By taking this action now and protecting the value our pension, we are thinking of generations of children in the future.

Simon Cardy (West Midlands SWAN)

N30 strike report Solihull

N30 Unison block on West Midlands march
The Bluebell Centre at Chelmsley Wood proved a particular challenge as the Council Offices lie within a privately owned shopping complex. Strikers gathered at different points around the perimeter of the centre, there were on going boundary disputes with the security staff over where they could stand. A lot of shoppers going into Asda’s expressed their support for the strikers.

Jensen House, a base for a number of Social Work teams, and Jubilee House were closed and picket lines formed opposite each other across Auckland Drive. Children’s Social Work Teams were solid in their support of the strike, and were run with emergency cover. Managers led their Teams out and joined the picket lines

The strike was well supported by Adult social care workers, all the Day Centre’s were closed and many residential workers and mental health workers were out. Just 12 of Solihull’s 76 schools were fully open.

Cllr David Jameison, leader of the Labour group on Solihull Council visited the picket line outside Solihull Council House and expressed the support of the Labour Group for our struggle to protect the livelihoods of low paid workers.

By mid morning UNISON members ended their picket duties to join the 15,000 demonstration in Birmingham City Centre.

Jolyon Jones (West Midlands SWAN)

N30 strike report from Liverpool

Both the Mersey tunnels were closed due to the strikes, the ferries were not running and the majority of schools, council offices etc were closed.

The rally took place on St. Georges plateau, right next to the Occupy Liverpool camp which was set up on Saturday. There’s approximately 35 people camping there now.

The University of Liverpool went into occupation today. They’re asking people for show support while they are negotiating their demands which have been distributed across Facebook and a blog which has started now on Merseyside Network Against Fees and Cuts. Watch this space!

Nicky Mitchell (Liverpool SWAN)

N30 London SWAN Strike Report

We won over lots of members of the public and got several people not to cross the picket and join the union.

I got to spend time meeting stewards from all over the council too – environmental services and housing benefit to name a couple. Pest control arrived with a sign with two rats named Dave and Nick hanging from it!

I then rocketed up to Islington for the SWAN London N30 meet up, joining other SWAN London members including a good crop of new student activists from my old university! We met with service users and social care staff from the Elfrida Society (a organisation which provides services for people with learning difficulties) and anti-cuts activists from Islington Hands of our Public Services, before the march.

It was chance for some great conversation marching all the way from Islington Town Hall to Lincolns Inn Fields and then onto Trafalgar Square, formulating ideas and catching up with SWAN activists old and new.

It was a great show of strength and opportunity to build for ongoing industrial action to defeat the government and the austerity being foisted onto ordinary people by the rich.


The devastating pronouncements in the Autumn Statement delivered by George Osborne the day before the strike, left us in no doubt as to the importance of sending a powerful statement from the public sector. Much has been said and written about pensions, cuts, bonuses, bankers, economic statistics, predictions and consequences but for those of us who still believe in the value of our labour and the right to withdraw it, this strike was aimed at sending an unambiguous message – Enough!!

Blue skies and crisp November sun shone supportively as I made my way for picket duty at the university where I work. How many UCU and Unison members would step up I wondered. Camaraderie and good spirits interspersed with some lively discussion has always marked for me the atmosphere on the picket line. As I arrived a number of students, who it would seem had been actively encouraged to come to lectures, were being informed about the
strike and asked for support. Some gave it and some did not. It was revealing and indeed perplexing, to have social science students (even if it was just a few) crossing our picket line with the stakes for social consciousness and collective action so high, as Marx said “It is not the consciousness of men that determine their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness”. Encouragement however came a little later from IHOOPS (Islington Hands Off Our Public Services), in the form of hot tea, coffee and flap-jacks. Later again a lone journalist from the NUJ arrived with a box of homemade fudge to share and a request for an interview. A little faith was restored.

At 10.30 I went to Islington Town Hall to join the rally there with my SWAN colleagues to support the Elfrida Society who provide essential services to people with learning difficulties. Like many other charities and community
organizations they are experiencing massive cuts, lending a predictable hollowness to the earlier trumpeting of the CON DEM’s Big Society. Following speeches from Jeremy Corbyn and others we set off for the rally. Positioned
as we were at the end of the march, it was a few hours before we arrived at Embankment. We missed the speeches but our journey was enlivened by good conversation, street theatre and the good spirits of fellow marchers. It was also an opportunity to discuss and plan further SWAN activities.

Later that evening as we made our way home from central London my colleague and I were acutely aware of the number of homeless people around, and the very obvious extent of their need. How, I wondered would they survive what is to come.


N30 strike report from Leeds

Forty to fifty people – mainly women workers with a roving band of UNISON retired members and a couple of Heads of Commissioning – picketed the various entrances to Merrion House and the Civic Hall, which house the head offices of Adults and Children’s Social Care and other central services. Scabs, largely from demoralised, re-organised and de-organised sections like HR and OD, scurried in with their heads down, apologising. We turned back the post ….. and a vital Xerox paper delivery!

Linguists on strike in Leeds
The Leeds TUC rally at Woodhouse Moor drew several thousand strikers from all the striking unions. As the march wound into town, thousands more students, lecturers, council workers, teachers, pupils and civil servants joined, with estimates of well over 7000 at the city centre rally in Victoria Gardens, making this the biggest Leeds demo in decades.

The feeling on the picket lines was clear: we were on strike today for every working class person’s future. We know class war when we see it and we’re not interested in negotiating reductions in jobs, pensions and services. This was a fantastic start and a springboard for re-building shop-floor union organisation. Leeds UCU has called a cross-union meeting for activists on Monday at 6.00pm in Broadcasting House to discuss how to escalate the action.

N30 Rally in Leeds
John from West Yorkshire SWAN added: “As a second year Social Work student who also works part-time in the NHS I see first hand the affect of cuts now on services and staff and what I will be working within when I qualify. To suggest it is fair to top slice public sector pensions to swell the Treasury coffers  and make workers make up the looting by paying more, working longer and getting less is ludicrous. Given the pressure on social care and health care staff, working until 67/68 or whatever age it ends up being is a non-starter, service users and staff will both suffer. There was good student support at both Leeds Universities, hundreds of leaflets were handed out and many students came to the rally.”

Sue Talbot & John McDermott (West Yorkshire SWAN)

N30 strike report from Birmingham

Nick, a social worker, reports on the picket line at one social services office: “55 pickets, militant and very bouyant mood at the picket, singing ‘I’d rather be a picket than a scab’. Lots of passing motorists honked in support including a Royal Mail van and most of the buses. One scab made a complaint that the pickets were being intimidating but when this was shared, those on the picket line continued to sing and chat. The only aggressive thing was the scab driving fast towards the picket line and the scale of the council cuts!”


Social workers and other staff then joined a march through the city which Birmingham City Council had tried to prevent. The Council yesterday told the TUC they would charge £10,000 for the march through Birmingham City Centre even though the march against the Lib Dem conference just 6 weeks ago cost a few hundred pounds.

However the strikers defied this deeply undemocratic attempt to stop the march. 15 thousand people joined the protest through the streets of the city, marching to the TUC rally at the NIA.

Nick has also recorded a number of short audio clips of interviews with strikers explaining why they took action today and what we need to do to win. We will make these available soon on the SWAN website.