Social Workers successful in halting “Cheap Labour” Scheme


With the news of the recent launch of a recruitment campaign from the HSE/Tusla for Professionally Qualified Social Workers[i] and the news that this recruitment campaign is open to current social work students[ii], it is clear that the cheap labour scheme (or “new graduate scheme”), which was proposed by the Child and Family Agency in early 2014[iii] is, in the words of their CEO Gordon Jeyes, “dead in the water[iv]”.

When student social workers and SWAN members heard of the proposal to introduce a “graduate scheme” to social work in early 2014 the response was one of anger and defiance. A national campaign was launched with students, educators, practitioners, unions, student bodies and affiliated groups coming together to collective resist this scheme. This included a demonstration outside the Dail[v].

Throughout the campaign SWAN Ireland maintained that the introduction of the scheme would:

  • Represent a move to ‘drive down’ salaries within the social work sector and would install a new layer of ‘cheap labour’ within the profession.
  • Would be likely to prompt other social work employers to also reduce starting salaries for newly qualified social work professionals.
  • Risk undermining the morale of the new agency by unilaterally seeking to undermine the terms of condition of employment.
  • May prompt many newly qualified social workers to seek employment beyond Ireland.
  • Fail to recognise that fully qualified, CORU registered social workers should be entitled, as part of the workforce, to salaries negotiated over a number of years. 
  • Dilute the significance of CORU accredited social work training programmes and ignore the fact that students will have already completed lengthy placements as part of their training.
  • Convey the bogus idea that students emerging from social work programmes are all ‘young’, ignoring that fact that many newly qualified social work professionals are ‘mature’ and have accumulated a number of years of relevant experience even before commencing social work education.

The steering committee of the Social Work Action Network Ireland would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those social workers who stood up for their beliefs and fought this battle. We would like to sincerely thank groups such as IMPACT trade union, We’re Not Leaving, the Young Workers’ Network, the Union of Students Ireland and many others, who supported student social workers in this campaign. This outcome shows that by working together we can be successful in our struggles!


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[ii] Additional Campaign Information: “Candidates (Undergraduate Degree / Masters) on a recognised professional social work course due to graduate in 2015”.

[iv] Jeyes was speaking to social workers at a meeting in 2014 when he stated that the scheme was “dead in the water”.

[v] Video of national demonstration:

AGM and motions carried at SWAN Conference 2015

SWAN AGM 2015 minutes
Chaired by Kerry Cuskelly, SWAN Ireland

1. Welcome:

Apologies included Peter Beresford, Mark Baldwin, Marie Porter, Bob Williams-Finlay, Rich Moth, Simon Cardy.

2. Report from National Convener Michael Lavalette:

Topics covered – local groups, access to funds, Rotherham, international work, Critical and Radical Social Work journal and SWAN pamphlets.  work for the coming year to focus on policy responses and development of international SWAN network.

3. Report from Treasurer and Membership Secretary Iain Ferguson:

Summary of income and expenditure handed out to all AGM attendees.
Membership – Roughly 4 or 5 people are joining every week. Setting up a standing order is encouraged.
Proposed action for the coming year – new SWAN postbox needed, website needs to be upgraded, financial help available to help with “start-up” of SWAN groups, steering committee to decide if accounts need to be audited or not, new treasurer/membership officer needed in 2016.

4. Report from Jeremy Weinstein on the Mental Health Charter:

Meetings throughout the year re the charter, invitations to some conferences to speak because of the charter.
300 signatories to the Charter so far. A submission was made by the charter sub-group to the Royal College of Psychiatry in respect of a document they were writing on adult inpatient care. SWAN and MH Charter encourage attendance at the Psychopolitics conference on June 10th in Liverpool Hope University.

5. Motions:

Support of Palestine UK Social Work Network/Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel from Michael Lavalette. Motion was carried with two abstentions and two against.
No confidence in Chief Social Worker for Children and Families in England by SWAN national steering commitee. Motion was carried.
(copies of motions are available for download below)

6. Election of Steering committee:

National Convener – Michael Lavalette
Deputy Convener – Shelly Ferguson
Membership Officer/Treasurer – Iain Ferguson
The three officer positions were filled and each person was elected unopposed.
All remaining people who put themselves forward for general membership of the steering committee (17) were elected by agreement of the AGM attendees.

7. AOB:

Proposal for the development of an anti-racism charter (akin to the mental health charter). This will be developed initially by the steering committee. This proposal was passed by full agreement of AGM attendees.
Proposal for SWAN to donate £100 each to two funds, the Glasgow Homelessness Workers fund and the Barnet Workers fund. This proposal was passed by full agreement of AGM attendees.

AGM ends.

Mental Health Charter: submission on inpatient adult psychiatric care

Please find below the full submission from the Mental Health Charter available for download.

Mental Health charter signatories will also be pleased to hear of the attention being paid to a recent open letter denouncing austerity and cuts to mental health services signed and supported by SWAN and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) alongside a host of prominent psychologists, psychotherapists and allied professions. This letter was published by the Guardian on Friday 17th April 2015 and has been picked up and circulated by trade unions and other organisations:

The Mental Health Charter is still gathering support and making an impact among mental health service users, carers and workers. Please add your name by emailing  – you can also make contact at this address with any coments or correspondence. We especially welcome endorsements of the Charter from individuals, teams and/or organisations.