SWAN Conf 2012 – Friday 30th March


– Sheffield case study: 16+ years life expectancy difference between richest and poorest areas

– House prices differentiation took off  in mid-90’s impacts for inheritance and perpetuating inequality.

– Last week’s budget tax cuts gave every person earning over £1m annually over £40k extra

– Sheffield case study: 4360 kids lose up to £1.5m from April 2012

– In more equitable countries the felt need to consume is less so less is wasted and thrown away.

– In some affluent countries the top 1% have never has less than they have had today. And the trains still run on time.

– You could create 15m new jobs, from the amount the rich have increased their wealth since the 1970’s.

– Population is leveling off at aroubd 9bn after 2050, will bring systemic change. Majority of world’s children now literate: you can’t fool them all any more!


– By veiling cuts, personalisation means people cannot afford to go to previous day centre let alone have more choice

– need to hold Unison leaders to account over pensions let down in fortcoming elections

– social workers and others being squeezed increasingly identifying with people they work with

– idea of Scotland under devolution being land of milk & honey simplistic – life expectancy in Glasgow as low as 54

– social workers and others need to denounce and take back money from the likes of Council CEO’s with ‘ferrari attitudes’



We received an urgent address and appeal by two lesbian asylum seeker Indian women –who have been persecuted, beaten and raped by Detention Centre officials. SWAN took a vote and agreed to make this a campaign priority.

Raped and stabbed in UK for being homosexual. Police supported those people who raped stabbed them.

Detained in detention centre. In terms of treatment they were told by officers they take benefits and opportunities – or to go back to own countries.

When one of the women was not eating or drinking: they said it was a faked behaviour – after being sexually assaulted by detention centre officers.

Women appealed for support – if not successful in asylum claim, they will die – honour killing by own families.


1. Sign letter to Teresa May in Conference Pack – will upload later or check twitter @SWANsocialwork to find picture of letter.

2. Sign petition in favour of granting asylum.

3. Collection for women


*Apologies for poor coverage, had technical problems during this session*

– Identified March 2002 as turning point in public consciousness against asylum seeks – the Star and News of the World talked about Asylum Seekers as ‘this scum’ at same time as Sangatte.

– In 2003, the government sent letters to Iraqi asylum seekers to return at same time as loading planes to bomb Iraq, while no airport was open

– Social workers have a voice inside their head – a dialogue  affected by what is happening in environment and ideological context. People seeking asylum are key resources to making change in right direction – link with them and help release their own resources.  Don’t underestimate potential power you have – if you are prepared to engage with person – concentrate on what they’ve got in them.

– Social workers are on front line of fighting fascism as it emerges in society.

– Social workers need to be confident to speak out against racism – to put up signs saying we do not accept racism and fascism in this office.

– There is a fiction of Islamophobia existing alone. A recent increase to 1200 Islamophobic attacks was accompanied by other forms racism returning  – the media reactions to the Dale Farm evictions for instance.

– On 14th and 22nd April there are UAF days of action against EDL – social workers need to be out on the streets speaking out against racism/fascism.

– Social workers, social care workers: urgent need to bring together people attacked by far right to defeat them.

– Importance of sharing stories of what’s happening within asylum system.  Privatisation of asylum support. Organisations such as G4S are assisting asylum seekers at the same time as deporting asylum seekers, and abuse and worse occurs in the detention centres they run.

– Social workers have choice to fight back against process of privatisation or slip into social work as surveillance and control of asylum seekers and general population.

Progressive Social Work Manifesto, Hong Kong

For a decade, social welfare in Hong Kong has been severely challenged. The government’s neoliberal approach to welfare has led to adopt residualist welfare system, thereby undermining social welfare as a powerful tool for securing human rights and justice. Without long-term planning, welfare spending has been steadily decreasing. The so-called flexible planning and funding mechanism has rendered social welfare to a sporadic, ad hoc services. As a result, there is a widening rich-poor gap, intensifying social stratification, and worsening of quality of life for the grassroots. Despite continuous demands from the public and the social welfare sector for the government to resume long-term planning for social welfare, the Labour Welfare Bureau (LWB) has shunned its responsibility by delegating the task to the Social Welfare Advisory Committee, which has no de facto authority. As the important role of Hong Kong’s social welfare system is undermined, autonomy of social services, the core values of promoting social justice in social have also been challenged to an unprecedented degree.

Today, Hong Kong has the widest rich-poor gap in all of Asia, with a Gini coefficient at 0.533, championing even Europe and the US. However, public expenditure on social welfare accounts for only 17% of total government expenditure (about 400 million). 75% of that is used in financial aid such as social security schemes, and only 25% is spent on other social services.

Hiding behind austerity as an excuse, the government has capped social welfare spending and created divisions among difference needs of grassroots. In numerous policy addresses and financial budgets, as well as the recent consultative document on long-term planning for social welfare, the government has not only ignored the problem of wealth disparity, but reaffirmed its policies of low taxation and rejection of using welfare as a tool for redistribution of resources. Even worse is the fact that citizens have begun to shoulder the burden of welfare spending with the implementation of different classes of social services: by putting emphasis on the principle of users pay, social investment, business donations and other financing strategies, the government has shifted the burden onto the society.
Social services providers have been expected to assist in creating the illusion of ‘harmony’, rendering social workers no more than technocrats used to establish control over the society. Exploiting the so-called ‘professional’ skills of social work, the government has strengthened the role of monitory and social control of social work, while weakening its importance in promoting human rights and securing social justice.

Ten major problems in Hong Kong’s social welfare

1. Biding by the neoliberal principle of ‘big government, small market’ and maintaining a residual welfare system while reducing the only existing safety net – the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA)
2. Reducing profit tax, import tax on wine, abolishing inheritance tax, strengthening wealth accumulation and intensifying wealth disparity
3. Implementing a population policy that discriminates against new immigrants and exploit their right to welfare
4. Political oppression of social services and the autonomy of social workers
5. Using flexibility as an excuse, the government avoids responsibility for a flawed planning system and funding mechanism
6. Undermining social welfare with Lump Sum Grants (LSG)
7. Competitive bidding of social service and commodification of welfare
8. Adopting the principles of user pays and ability-to-pay, thereby creating substandard social services, violating the equality of the right to welfare
9. Using ‘Government- business sector-public cooperation’ as an excuse, the government has introduced market principles into the welfare sector, thereby lessening the government’s responsibility in this area
10. Avoiding welfare planning by delegating the responsibility to a powerless consultative committee  

We are a diverse group of concerned frontline workers, students, service users and academics. We establish the Progressive Social Work Network(PSWN)in a united attempt to resist the marketization of social services and social work, the stigmatization of service users and the reduction of welfare.

We are aware that social work is vulnerable to being hijacked and used by the government as a tool to control grassroots citizens. We strongly believe that the ultimate goal of social work is the care for humanity and the realization of moral practice. Social work does not only help people tackle challenges in daily life, but also strives to eliminate the roots of inequality and oppression in modern society. Progressive social work must probe deeper to address the structural problems that are the structural cause of human suffering.

We believe that the majority of those who are committed to social services did not hope to assist the powers that be in social control. Instead, they aspire to walk with the grassroots of the society in pushing for real change for human and societal welfare. Yet the dominance of neoliberalism and managerialism has clearly undermined our ability to realize the core values of social work. Therefore we protest: ‘I didn’t come into social work for this!’ The difficult situation that we face today has prompted us to reflect on the true mission of social work and the role of the social worker.

–   We are social workers who serve for the grassroots, and not tools that assist those in positions of wealth and power strengthen an unjust system and execute their flawed policies
–   We insist upon the moral practice of social work; that is, to care for the needs of service recipients as well as promote collective approaches in challenging unjust social policies and practices.

In order to adhere to the principles above, we must launch a campaign for progressive social work and social welfare, and insist upon protecting the spirit of social work that is to promote human rights, justice, democracy and equality. We must resist any oppression against social welfare and its service users in order to establish a society that respects human rights and secures social justice. As such, we propose ‘5Rs’ as our action plan:

1.    Reaffirm: The core values of social service and social work should be defending the rights of the grassroots, securing social justice and promoting social change and the betterment of human welfare.
2.    Reorganize: It is crucial to consolidate the collective power of social welfare stakeholders so as to exert enough influence on authorities in the social welfare sector. We must promote democratization in the management of social welfare agencies, develop a trade union and demand for the right to collective bargaining. We must also reorganize the power of service users’ participlation.
3.    Recapture: We must recapture our say in social welfare planning in order to promote a just allocation of public spending, and to adopt regulations that prevent welfare sponsors from intervening in the autonomy of social services.  
4.    Reappear: Social workers should take up the roles of advocates, making critique and pushing for reform so as to promote social justice, human rights, democracy and equality.
5.    Reestablish: To create a civil society that respects diversity so as to foster real social inclusion.

About Progressive Social Work Network(PSWN):

If you believe that the goal of social work is to uphold justice and moral practice;
If you hope to strive towards higher goals in social work;
If you are willing to explore the higher possibilities in between theory and practice;
If you are unwilling to play the role of the submissive worker;
Let us work together to pave a truly progressive path in social work!

Report from Personalisation in Glasgow – 10th March

Those who attended heard about how Glasgow City Council has rushed ahead with the implementation of the national policy of Personalisation (also known as Self Directed Support) primarily as a way to save money. The council claims that 20% of current funding can either be “redirected” to other support services or used to help meet the Social Work Department’s annual cuts targets – in 2012/13 they intend to use Personalisation to cut £10M from the city’s social work budget.

No one at the conference disagreed with the principles underpinning Personalisation – who is against choice, services tailored to individual needs and empowerment? However, the way in which Glasgow City Council has chosen to implement Personalisation is leading to cuts in support, less choice, poorer quality services and attacks on support workers’ wages and conditions. A market driven approach to social care will only lead to a “race to the bottom” and damage the current support services in the city.

The conference agreed a campaign statement which includes calling on the council to adopt a no cuts approach, for a more transparent and inclusive individual assessment process, more resources for advocacy services and the protection of workers’ wages and conditions. We now need to step up the fight to defend services for disabled people, and to make the principle of choice a reality rather than a mask for cuts.

The next meeting of the campaign’s Personalisation network, which is open to all groups, is on Tuesday 27 March at 10am in the UNISON Branch Office, 84 Bell Street.

Brian Smith, UNISON Glasgow City

Final timetable – SWAN Conf 2012

Besides the key note speakers including Professor Danny Dorling, there are plenary sessions on ‘What Happened to Anti-Racist Social Work?’, ‘Social Work and the Struggle for Social Justice in an International Context’ (with speakers from Hungary, Slovenia and Ireland) and ‘Building Alliances, Defending Welfare’.

In addition there are numerous radical workshops, including themed plenary workshops: The Crisis in Children and Families Social Work; Adult Social Care – The Crisis of Marketization; a session organised by ‘In Defence of Youth work’; a Debate on Age Assessments of Asylum Seeking Childre; ‘Dale Farm’, Traveller Communities and Social Work (organised by Liverpool Irish Centre) and The Crisis in Mental Health.

Delivering Dignity report – a critical response


Dr Joe Greener, Post Doctoral Teaching Fellow In Social Work at Liverpool Hope University, has considered the report from a critical perspective and finds that it overlooks the issue of the funding necessary to enable staff to provide quality and dignified care.

Joe further suggests that the analysis and recommendations of the document have not considered how social, economic and political conditions impact upon the relationships between care workers and those who receive care. Please read Joe’s short article here.