Update From Social Work First: The Challenges Of Work In Calais.

Social Work First explain how the first month of practice within the Jungle camp has developed, and inspire us all to keep social justice at the core of the profession.



SWF has been up and running now for just over a month.  During this time we have recruited 50 social work volunteers, both qualified social workers and social work students, ready to come over to the Calais refugee camp and directly support the refugees.  We also have nearly 300 members, including social workers from France, Spain and India.

The last month has been spent engaging with the volunteers in the camp, organisations outside of the camp, and developing a model of social work practice.  We have spoken with Lena Domenelli, which was a brilliant opportunity, and Lena is interested in the application of a social work model in practice to support refugees around the world.

This has been the most challenging aspect of our work to date.  We are very clear around our theories of Empowerment and Anti-oppressive practice but how do we actually implement them?  We are not only up against a dominant political narrative which, seeking to avert attention from their failure to address the systemic causes of this crisis, pursues a rhetoric intended to dehumanise refugees by apportioning blame on the victims.  In addition to this we have also had to countenance the fact that social work is no longer a universally respected profession associated with social justice.  Volunteers inside the camp have been reluctant to engage through a mixture of distrust of our profession and lack of understanding as to what social work can actually deliver for the most vulnerable people on the planet!  This seems to me an indictment of the failure of our profession to stand up and be heard as a coherent voice, unequivocal in our support for the poor and oppressed.

However, we have gradually pushed through the fear and resistance and have been sending over social work teams eachSaturday, to get to know the people and the camp.  We have been working alongside vulnerable children in the Kids Space restaurant and have listened to unimaginable accounts of hardships and horrors, relayed by children and adults alike.  We will shortly be working from a venue which we will share with Care4Calais, and we will start to reach out to the adults in the camp.  We are looking to arrange events and activities as a means to get to know the citizens of the camp and begin to help empower people to have more control over what is happening to them in the camp, to develop emotional resilience in response to their social conditions, which are fundamentally linked to cultural coping strategies.  Using Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy to ensure we are not seeking to integrate people into their structures of oppression, we work in solidarity with the oppressed to change those structures.

Social Work is fighting back. With SWAN, BASW, social workers without borders and social work first we can reclaim social work from the shackles of the state and have pride in our profession.

People’s Assembly March April 16th: Join the SW+SUrs bloc!

There will be a banner kindly organised by BASW with a coalition of logos on it, we hope to have plenty of people underneath!

The following information has been taken directly from the BASW website:

“The meeting point for BASW members and others who wish to join the social workers and service users bloc will be at Gordon Square Garden, Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD, from 12.30pm – a five minute walk from Gower Street.

We will be near the entrance to the gardens on the east side, opposite Birbeck College’s building at 43 Gordon Square.

The meeting point is near a number of Tube stations, including Russell Square, Goodge Street, Euston and Euston Square, with the route from Euston Square to the meeting point shown in the map above.

We will move down to join the main demonstration at around 1pm.”

Full list of Partners for European Social Work Day of Solidarity with Refugees 4-6th June 2016

Here you can find the full list of official sponsors for this event, which is growing almost daily. We will update it as new organisations join the event.


In partnership with the EASSW and SWAN, the following groups are supporting the European Social Work Day of Solidarity with Refugees:

  • IFSW
  • IASSW – Human Rights Committee
  • Labour Social Work Group
  • Social Work without Borders (SWWB)
  • APSW
  • SUTR

We await further confirmation from schools of Social Work across Europe, but have been notified that social work educators in the UK, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Germany, Latvia and the Nordic region will be taking part. 


UNISON will be encouraging all local branches in the UK to get involved with the action on June 5th, and any UNISON member, those already involved in a regional group for the event or wanting to know more, is encouraged to contact their branch. 

With UNISON involved, the number of social workers who may be given the opportunity to take part in this action grows enormously. UNISON and the IFSW are amongst the biggest representative bodies of social workers in the world. SWAN’s central value of solidarity and strength in numbers is embodied in this partnership, and we are very excited about it’s potential. 

Regional Coordinators Page

This page will grow very quickly! 

If you are a social worker, current or retired, a social work student or academic and want to set up a regional group in your local area, please email your contact details to swansocialwork@gmail.com


BRISTOL: Lauren at socialworkwithoutbordersuk@gmail.com  07557149473. 
MANCHESTER: Katy Tolman at socialworkwithoutbordersuk@gmail.com  07880556401

Explaining the Social Work Solidarity with Refugees Event.


In March 2016, SWAN and the European Association of Schools of Social Work (EASSW) jointly called for a Social Work Day of Solidarity with Refugees. Initially listed as the 5th of June Europe-wide, this event has grown into a weekend long international action, with various countries taking part at some point across the 4th, 5th and 6th of June.

The purpose of this Social Work Solidarity Day is to offer support to refugees and crucially to gather information and evidence on their situation. This information will form part of a series of national and pan-national social work reports which will be presented to the relevant parliamentary/governing bodies. Gathering together all European evidence, we intend to present a report to the European Union Parliament in September.

We offer solidarity through our presence, by bearing witness to the horrors inflicted upon refugees, and by raising money and material aid to take to refugee ‘hotspots’. 

The Report

As social workers, we want the report to:

  • consider the material conditions that refugees are enduring
  • take note of unaccompanied children
  • hear and report the stories of split and divided families
  • record the mental health issues and the impact of trauma in people’s lives
  • report and record human rights issues
  • give the refugees a voice

We recognise that this has to be done appropriately. Each convoy/group needs to coordinate with the grassroots organisations, agencies and refugee groups to ensure that we are placing the needs and dignity of refugees at the forefront of our action.

The various regional and national reports should be submitted to SWAN, who will coordinate to put them into the appropriate European/other national large scale reports. 


Sponsors for this event have emerged quickly, with:

  • Joint Universities Council Social Work Education Committee (JUC-SWEC),
  • Labour Social Work Group, Social Work Without Borders (SWWB),
  • Association of Professors of Social Work (APSW) and
  • Stand Up to Racism (SUTR)

offering their support for the UK action day immediately. It can now be announced that this event has the backing of the International Federation of Social Work (IFSW). Such tremendous support means huge impact and increased awareness. 

Any organisation wishing to add their name as a sponsor of this amazing event can email swansocialwork@gmail.com

The UK Day of Action June 5th

Specific Action will vary according to international location. 

The aim of the UK Solidarity Day is to send delegates to Calais and Dunkirk Camps. We will take money and material aid, meet refugees and gather the information for our report.

Any group of social work practitioners, current and retired, students or academics wishing to join the UK convoy is advised to begin local organisation now. You are advised to raise money for travel including the channel crossing. Regional groups are asked to gather material aid or raise money to take to the camps, through what ever fundraising you can. SWAN has a Regional Coordinators Page available on this website, and we ask that an email address and/or telephone number be made available by every group taking part, in order that others in your area wishing to join you can contact you directly. 

On the 24th April, SWAN is running a session at the SUTR/Trade Unions For Calais Summit being held in the University of London Student Centre on Malet Street. This will be our main national organising event for the Solidarity Day prior to travel. We are asking each regional group to send at least 1 or 2 representatives to discuss travel, task division on the day, to hear from our partners based in Calais and Dunkirk and to answer any questions. Please find the summit’s leaflet attached below – tickets for the event are £5 waged and £2 unwaged. 

International Action

In Boston Massachusetts, there are plans to protest outside a refugee detention centre.

In parts of the Balkan region, plans are being made to protest at the (now closed) borders.

Where possible, we are inviting social workers across the globe to go to their local ‘hotspots’ with material aid and money, in order to gather information about the plight of refugees. If you are planning to organise action, please make contact with the grassroots organisations working alongside refugees in the ‘hotspots’ that you have identified. Please liaise with them to discuss appropriate action, distribution of aid and funds, and ensure that the dignity of the refugees is made paramount. 

Any questions, please contact SWAN on swansocialwork@gmail.com, or search the Regional Coordinators Page for a group near you.