4th June Conference – More Speakers Confirmed!

Peter Beresford and Jeremy Weinstein will both address the audience as part of the plenary on the UK mental health crisis.

Peter is Emeritus professor at Brunel University, the author of All Our Welfare: Towards a Participatory Social Policy and a staunch campaigner for service user rights in mental health services. He contributes regularly to The Guardian and is co-chair for Shaping Our Lives. 

Jeremy Weinstein is a highly experienced counsellor and therapist, and has spent two years very successfully coordinating the Swan ‘Manifesto on Mental Health’. His interests lie in mental health in a socio-political environment, especially its place in the UK austerity agenda.  


You can buy your ticket for the conference here.

Labour Party Social Work Group Co-Sponsor Statement, for June 5th Day of Solidarity

The joint venture proposed by Swan and EASSW of holding a European Social Work Day of Solidarity with Refugees, to be held on the first day of Refugee Week, has received widespread support. The latest, from the Labour Social Work Group, is very welcome. These new co-sponsors have made the following statement about their involvement:


“The Labour party and social work share a commitment to internationalism, and to those in crisis wherever they are in the world. So Labour Social Work group happy to support SWAN Day of Action with Refugees on 5 July.”


The Labour Social Work Group will be active in local areas, watch this space for more details. 


Unison Local Government Conference Motions to Fight Attacks on Social Work

Unison’s LG Conference on the 19-20th June will table a motion to support social work against the aggressive privatisation agenda of the government. The motion is available to read below but a full copy of the preliminary agenda and details of the conference can be found here. Swan are proud to be mentioned in the motion, and continue to promote engagement with unions as an essential part of the fight against austerity and neo-liberal ideology.


“7. Crisis in Social Work

Conference notes the vital role undertaken by social workers across the UK and applauds their continued ability to carry out excellent work in their communities despite the increased amount of pressure they are facing in their jobs. Social workers are having to cope with funding cuts to their services as caseload and referral levels continue to increase thanks to the Westminster Government‟s austerity agenda. Conference also recognises that attacks on the profession have continued to increase over the past year. Conference notes these problematic developments:

1) The closure of the College of Social Work, which was established in 2012 with the aim of raising social work standards and providing a voice for social workers;

2) The imposition of a new and additional assessment and accreditation system for child and family social workers;

3) The naming of social workers in court judgements;

4) The threat of jail for social workers for the crime of „wilful neglect‟;

5) A dramatic increase in the use of agency staff as councils struggle to retain permanent staff;

6) The Government‟s continued efforts to have more social work functions outsourced; 2016 Local Government Service Group Conference UNISON PRELIMINARY AGENDA Page 9 of 58

7) Support by the Westminster Government for initiatives such as Frontline, which promote an individualistic approach to social work, at the expense of tackling deep-rooted problems like reducing caseloads for social workers. Conference believes that there is a crisis in our social work system, caused by developments likes these along with continued austerity. Social workers are continually faced with excessive workloads, reductions in qualified staffing, and cuts in training and professional development.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

a) Develop and promote a social work campaign pack that branches can use to recruit and organise social workers and to help branches and Regions negotiate and campaign for better conditions at work for social workers;

b) Continue to promote the use of UNISON‟s Caseload Tool to try and help ensure safe workload levels for social workers;

c) Seek to work with other social work organisations such as the British Association of Social Workers and the Social Work Action Network in order to stand up for the wider social work profession in the face of continued Government attacks;

d) Work with the regions to promote the targeted recruitment of student social workers in universities;

e) Continue to vigorously oppose the privatisation of social work.

Local Government Service Group Executive”

Anti-Privatisation Plenary June 4th – Speakers Confirmed!


Dr Terry Murphy (Teeside University), Helen Davies (Practitioner and Barnet Unison) and Tom Robinson (student at University of Sussex) are confirmed to speak during Plenary 2 at our annual conference. Together they offers perspectives on the extensive privatisation taking place within social work, from both the fields of practice and education. Do you know what role fast track education programmes such as Frontline and Step Up are playing in restructuring the profession? What does the future hold for students like Tom who will have no bursaries and how do we resist in the workplace and through our unions? 


Buy your ticket now.

Social Work Without Borders a Co-Sponsor and Regional Coordinator for June 5th!

You can read their statement below, and learn more about this new project:

‘Social Workers Without Borders is a open project in it’s early days, set up by social workers returning from the refugee camps in Greece and France or in relevant services the UK. We want to promote a philosophy of solidarity with people at the borders, whilst remembering that border controls don’t stop at the ports: they are a constant reality for many service users and are evident in our work places, our decision making and our language. We advocate for a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell attitude toward immigration status and would love to join together with colleagues within the profession to carve out ways of working with people without status to promote their rights, dignity and autonomy. We want to make links with other professionals, work places and organisations that are interested in embedding this philosophy in our everyday social work practice. 

The EU ‘refugee crisis’ is in part a crisis of care. As such we are thrilled to be partnering with SWAN and EASSW as a regional co-ordinator (Bristol/Manchester) for the 5th June International Social Work Day of Solidarity with Refugees. This is an opportunity for members of the profession to come together alongside our international colleagues to promote beneficiary led, social solutions to solution problems. We want to share our experience, and hear the experiences of others who have been carrying out social work at the borders. What can social workers do there? How can we use our professional knowledge and voice to advocate for people at the borders, in the camps and in the prisons? As a group we would like to seek answers from those at the borders to inform our action on the day. We hope you will join us.’

JUC/SWEC Join 5 June Refugee Solidarity Day As Co-Sponsors

The Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee (JUC SWEC) have joined SWAN and the European Association of Schools of Social Work (EASSW) in calling for 5th June to be a day of social work solidarity with refugees. 

JUC SWEC is the representative organisation of all HE social work education providers in the UK. It effectively means that every social work HE provider should look at ways that they can contribute to making the 5 June a huge success! 
What is your education provider doing? Can you set up a working group? 

SWAN WSWD 2016 Statement: European Social Work Day of Solidarity with Refugees JUNE 5TH


In conjunction with the European Association of Schools of Social Work we are announcing that the 5 June 2016 will be a European Social Work Day of Solidarity with Refugees.

The refugee crisis in Europe continues. It is estimated that two children a day drown in the Mediterranean, that 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children have gone missing in Europe, that desperate refugees are being held in the most appalling conditions across Europe.

On the 5 June (the first day of Refugee Week, 2016) we call on social work students, practitioners, academics and those who have retired from front line work to join us and organise to travel to their closest refugee hotspot. The purpose is to do three things: 

  1. To take material goods and solidarity to refugees and agencies working with refugees on the ground;
  1. To witness the plight of refugees, and if appropriate, carry out some emergency social work support; and
  1. To gather testimony from the refugees. We want to gather evidence of material hardship, of unaccompanied children, of split families, of trauma and mental health issues. These will form the basis of a report that will appear on both SWAN and EASSW’s website, can be presented to national government and form part of a broader European report that we intend to submit to the EU parliament.


In Britain we will be working with local campaigning organisations in Calais and Dunkirk, travelling from Dover early on the morning of 5 June.

If you want to travel with us we are asking that groups form in towns and cities across the country to start fundraising and working out logistics.

We will hold a national organising meeting for 1 or 2 representatives of each travelling group in the middle of May.

We call upon SWAN groups and Schools of Social Work across Europe to join with us – identify your local hotspot, work with the grass roots agencies on the ground and join our day of solidarity.

On World Social Work Day why not commit to joining a day of action that puts social work values at the centre of our activity?

If you are interesting in more details of the 5 June events please contact Michael Lavalette on lavalem@hope.ac.uk

M19: March Against Racism! Call for Swan presence in Glasgow, Cardiff and London.

KEERFA, the leading Greek anti-racist and anti-fascist organisation, is calling for a global day of demonstrations against racism on that day. SWAN has made the rise of islamaphobia and the current refugee humanitarian disaster across the world a priority focus since summer 2015. Our one day conferences in both the University of West of Scotland (March 17th) and Friends House in London (June 4th) are both devoting plenary talks to the role of social work in this situation.  We are asking any SWAN members available in Glasgow, Cardiff or London to attend the big marches, with SWAN placards and banners. 

A letter was published in the Herald Scotland on Thursday 10th March demanding that this march send a clear message to government, written by the organisers of the Glasgow March: Stand Up To Racism, Positive Action in Housing, the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, the Scottish Refugee Council and many other organisations. However, the greatest effort comes as always from the public, who have responded to refugees across Europe in a truly inspirational manner. The level of solidarity and collaboration demonstrated by the British public over the past 6 months demonstrates that the overwhelming majority desire to eradicate racism and welcome refugees in the UK. 



Words matter: deconstructing ‘welfare dependency’ in the UK

With 2016 marking the 40th anniversary of the publication of Raymond Williams’ Keywords, an interrogation of the taken-for-grantedness of specific words, Paul Michael Garrett demonstrates how there is a pressing scholarly and political need to question and interrogate focal words and phrases within the neoliberal lexicon. Here, he looks at ‘welfare dependency’”.


Link to blog post: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/%EF%BB%BFwords-matter-deconstructing-welfare-dependency-in-the-uk/



Social Services and Social Work in the Context of Armed and Political Conflict: Durham March 16th

Social work engages with the trauma of it’s service users on many levels, and this day will be invaluable for all interested parties.

The European Association of Schools of Social Work with affiliated groups has organised an outstanding day, and there are a small number of places left.

Academics and researchers from several countries, including the UK, Germany, Bosnia, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland will be exploring the following topics:

-Refugee crisis and social work

-Social services and social policies in the context of armed conflict

-Social Services and transitional justice

-A critique of “liberal peace”

-“State of emergency” and human rights -Social services for veterans and victims of conflict.

Please find below, the attached programme of the day.

Book your ticket here.

New Initiative Seeking Volunteers – Social Work First in Calais

Social Work First is an independent social work clinic, being set up by British practitioners appalled by the conditions migrants are facing. Volunteers will be carrying out assessments particularly around the needs of families, women and children, with a hope to access resources from other charitable and independent sources. The aim is to begin practice on the 19th March and they are looking for volunteers able to commit at least a day a month, and who can self-fund the approx. £20 travel costs from London to Calais. 

Lynn and Louise explain that:

“we aim to: 

1. Attempt to access immediate resources identified in the assessments,  (either by contacting Charities,  Mosques, Church Groups, members of the public and anyone else we can think of).
2. Try to support the women in the camp to organise themselves (in meeting their identified needs)  which could include strategies   to reduce risks to themselves and their children, increase their personal safety and foster a self belief which is ultimately empowering. 
3. To campaign and challenge oppression, on behalf of and in solidarity with the refuges in the camp. We will use the actual evidence collected in our Assessment to present a true narrative.”

Are you interested? Contact socialworkfirst@hotmail.com.

Swan will be following their progress keenly, and are proud that we have such motivated members. We wish them the best of luck!

See the attached paperwork for more information about how Social Work First will operate. 

Call For Solidarity with Practitioners – North East London Migrant Action

The concerns that they raised regarding the ability of practitioners to respond to the needs of these groups are very interesting, and resonate with many we have spoken to in the network. NELMA has kindly written a statement for the website, looking to encourage debate, build solidarity with under pressure practitioners, and illicit change. A theme of the article is a refocus upon the common enemy: the ideological attacks by our government upon both migrants, and the social work profession asked to work with them. Solidarity, over divide and conquer, is essential. If you would like to get in touch with them, their email address is supplied below. We thank Fran and her colleagues for this article.


“Some of us working in voluntary organisations supporting migrants in north and east London have set up a campaign group (NELMA)*. We are focusing on the rising numbers of migrant families, particularly single mothers, who have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) as part of their immigration status. As a result, many face destitution and homelessness. We are disturbed that when we refer these families to children’s services they are increasingly confronted with a negative and sometimes even hostile response.


These women are trying to raise their children as best they can in impossible conditions: the children are at risk due to poverty and homelessness, not lack of care. If the Home Office had not denied them access to benefits in times of need they would not be swelling the caseloads of overburdened children’s services. The responsibility for their situation lies squarely with the government and the Home Office, as well as the local councils implementing the government’s austerity budget.


However, we are finding, for example, that homeless single mothers with small children are being turned away by emergency accommodation services and that children’s services are frequently refusing Section 17 assessments for apparently little reason. The outcome is that families with children face nights on the street, single mothers are forced into exploitative relationships to secure a roof over their heads, and many are left without the means to care for their children. Women also tell us of feeling humiliated during interviews, being urged to return to their country of origin, threatened with having their children taken away, and if they are housed, often being placed in dirty, damp or dangerous accommodation. As they are often already highly anxious and distressed, this makes an intolerable situation worse.


We believe this sort of response is due to the pressures placed on front-line social workers by a lack of dedicated government funding, severe staff shortages, impossible case loads and deep council cuts. And we were heartened to read the statement on your website in support of refugees and calling on the government to review its immigration policies. Social work organisations have shown they are aware of the problems that migrant families with NRPF face, particularly in London. BASW, for example, has publicised the 2015 COMPAS report about Section 17 and migrant families. The report gives a good assessment of the issue, but since its data was gathered the situation has grown worse.


We want to raise greater awareness of this issue amongst the social work community and start a mutually beneficial discussion. We would also like to meet with any members of SWAN located in our area, with a view to mounting a joint campaign, perhaps linking it to the stressful working conditions of front-line social services staff and the lack of funding for social services.”


*NELMA (North East London Migrant Action) comprises voluntary organisations working with migrants in North and East London: Hackney Migrant Centre (HMC), Haringey Migrant Support Centre (HMSC), Walthamstow Migrant Support Centre (WMSC) and Akwaaba (a Hackney social drop-in for migrants). We have been joined by other campaign groups in the area, such as Haringey Housing Action Group (HAG).

(Email: nelondonmigrantaction@gmail.com)