After Calais – Report from Dundee Students Event


Last week, Dundee student SWAN held an event where we shared our thoughts and experiences of our recent trip to Calais.  We had 3 main speakers, with plenty of time for Q&A, in what was liberating and insightful event.

It truly felt fantastic to unburden ourselves, as since our return from Calais, all five of us from the Dundee group required a significant amount of time to reflect and digest what we had experienced and bore witness to whilst there. I think I can speak for all of us when I say it was profound and life changing event and it was no surprise to me that before we had even met up again post-trip, 4 of our party had already made plans to return to Calais at various junctures through the summer. During these repeat journeys we will be linking up with Care4Calais, Social Work First and, hopefully, Social Work Without Borders. Fundraising is well under way and donations are coming in fast. We are also making links in our community in the North East, with early conversation held with Dundee Refugee Support.

On the night of the event, one of group, Amy Kenyon, kindly volunteered to host and then illustrate our experiences through a wonderful presentation [attached].

She was followed by a senior lecturer of architecture at UoD, Dr Husam Al Waer. Husam is a Syrian national and he has been living in Dundee since 2008. Husam spoke passionately about Syria, his home town and family and not a soul in the room could fail to be moved by his descriptions of the human effect of war that he described so bravely.

Lastly, Dr Ian Barron from the Dundee University Social Work department spoke about trauma exposure, the consequences for children and the routes to recovery, in what was both a relevant and insightful presentation.

We have plans to put on the event again, with the same speakers and perhaps the addition of one; as it was felt there was a lot more that could have been said and discussed about the political atmosphere and nature of the debate around immigration and refugees, especially in light of the heartbreaking death of Jo Cox, only days earlier. A lecture theatre will be book in late September, early October and this will hopefully be timetabled for the incoming first year social work students and opened up across SWAN and the University. We look forward to welcoming all comers. 

We believe the time is NOW to make a positive case for ‘Refugees Welcome’ in line with the core principles of our profession, namely: empowerment, integrity and social justice. Refugees are stateless, not hopeless; capable, not culpable. We reject the xenophobic posturing of the right in this debate and seek all progressive forces within our profession to unite. David Cameron thinks the sight of refugees attempting to board trucks at Calais is “unacceptable”, we say the only unacceptability in this whole situation is the lack of support and provision from the central government for people living in horrendous conditions only miles from our shorelines.


Dundee Students

Ex-Practitioner’s View on the Attack Upon Human Rights


Human rights are like the air we breathe and to be deprived of them is death!

Imran A. Mohammed


November 9th 1998 is a very important day in British history because on this day the Human Rights Act received Royal Assent and, on October 2nd 2000 the Act came into force. The Human Rights Act is deeply rooted in British culture and history. The Magna Carta – an English Charter issued in 1215 is the most cited milestone in the history of human rights.


Recently, Navanethem “Navi” Pillay is a South African jurist who served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to 2014. On Monday 25th April 2016, Navi visited The University of Warwick, United Kingdom (UK) and gave the Global Research Priority on International Development’s annual public lecture, ‘Contemporary Challenges for Justice and Development’. As a PhD student currently studying at the university I attended the lecture. Sitting in the front row listening to Navi talk about her remarkable journey in championing human rights was indeed empowering. Her determination, resilience, belief and commitment to strive forward as one would say “when the chips are down” reminded me of my days as a former social worker.


The widely accepted definition of social work is that approved by The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) in July 2014 as:

“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.  Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.

The above definition may be amplified at national and/or regional levels”.

Ruth Stark, the president of the International Federation of Social Workers stated “Social work is a human rights discipline”. Social workers are reminded daily in their practice of the importance of human rights when working with vulnerable adults, young people and children in our society. For example, when providing housing, shelter, arranging a care package, safeguarding young people and children, and when considering a long-term placement.


The Human Rights Act is a very important piece of law for all social workers and should never be underestimated. Despite the Act being one of the most fundamental pieces of law to challenge unfair treatment of basic rights for all human beings, the Conservative government want to “scrap” the Act.  It seems preposterous, yet, this Government does not seem to be short of surprises! What next I ask? The Government’s decision to replace the Human Rights Act and produce their own version will increase frustration not just among social workers but the general public too. In a time of so much change, surely, now is the time to reflect on important issues, such as tackling austerity and ensuring that the next generation of social workers are instilled with hope and a prosperous future.

In the midst of so many distractions and indeed continued challenges social workers must remain committed. The social work profession that taught me to stand up for I believed in and I will never turn my back on a profession that gave me a voice! It is our responsibility and incumbent on us all, whether we our former or current practitioners to inform ALL about the important work we do and lives we indeed change! Despite the many adversities that one encounters in their practice, one has to remember that our work cannot stop, rather it must continue in making OUR world a better, peaceful place!

There are many that one can draw inspiration from, but, there is indeed, only one such GREAT voice that deserves the last word, and it must go so fittingly to Navi Pillay, as she states:


“Human Rights is everyone’s business”


Imran A. Mohammed

Ph.D. Student at CENTRE FOR LIFE LONG LEARNING, The University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Imran was a former social worker and now a PhD student at The University of Warwick. He is passionate about Human Rights and strongly believes that conversations about people’s basic rights must never stop!

Upcoming Events for All



Find below flyers for ‘Psychologists and the Benefits System’ at Liverpool University and ‘Homelessness and the Brain’ in Manchester.

Please also note from SUTR:

Stand Up To Trump! Protest Donald Trump’s visit to Britain
Donald Trump, the candidate running the most racist presidential campaign in generations is visiting Britain on 24th June (please note, date change).

As well as calling on a blanket ban on Muslims entering the US, Trump has a long history of racist outbursts. He has said ‘laziness is a trait in blacks’, described Mexican immigrants as ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists’, and condoned the beating of a Black Lives Matter activist at one of his rallies.

Join the protest on June 24th to show that Donald Trump’s brand of bigotry is not welcome in Scotland.

Join the facebook event here
Sign the petition against Trump’s visit here
The People’s Refugees Summit:
No to Racism, Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism
Saturday 8th October
Friends Meeting House, 173-177 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ
10.30am – 4.30pm
Major national conference bringing together speakers, organisations and activists from anti-racist campaigns
Speakers include:

Diane Abbott MP
Kate Osamor MP
Claude Moraes MEP
Owen Jones,
Journalist at The Guardian
Maurice Wren,
Refugee Council Chief Executive
Talha Ahmad, Muslim Council of Britain
Mark Serwotka,
PCS Gen Sec
Kevin Courtney,
NUT Deputy Gen Sec




The Wonderful Bob Holman


Bob Holman, who died last week following a year-long battle with motor neuron disease, was a lifelong fighter for social justice. A Christian socialist who gave up an academic career to live and work in deprived working-class communities in Birmingham and Glasgow, he was a fierce critic of the massive inequalities created by successive Tory and New Labour governments.  

In a period when social work departments and their highly-paid bosses were becoming increasingly divorced from the people they claimed to serve, Bob argued for and practised a real community social work, making him a superb role model to generations of new social workers. He was a good friend to the Social Work Action Network and spoke at the 2011 SWAN conference in a plenary session entitled ‘Big Society? Big Joke!’.  

Bob’s commitment to improving the lot of the people he lived and worked beside sometimes led to him having strange bedfellows, most notably Tory minister Ian Duncan Smith.  However, Bob did not hesitate to condemn Duncan Smith’s behavior once in office for what he saw as the betrayal of the promises he had made to the people of Easterhouse.

Bob’s political philosophy is perhaps best summed up in the title of a book he edited in the late 1990s, based on interviews with local Easterhouse residents, Faith in the Poor. It was the in intelligence, resilience and creativity of so-called ‘ordinary people’ that Bob saw the best hope for the future. He will be sorely missed.

Iain Ferguson


Feedback on Position Papers – Read Margaret’s Contribution

These are available to read on the website, and open for discussion. 

Margaret Turner is one attendee who has been kind enough to send her thoughts on the Mental Health Charter that forms the basis of our position paper on the crisis in mental health provision.

We thank her, and invite you to read the attached documents. Feel free to send us your thoughts about any of our position papers. 

Documents For European Social Work Day of Solidarity With Refugees June 5th

All those taking part globally in this event can make use of the attached pro forma. This will allow us to collate information from all over the world, compiled into a social work report in September.


This document is amendable and can be returned to the detailed email address in August.


Attached is also information on things that you can do in the UK to support this event. There are many extremely concerning issues facing refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, equally deserving of social work’s attention as those based in Calais. 


Swan Steering Committee

Position Papers and AGM Documents Available

Please find attached position papers, and the National Convenor’s Report and the Treasurer’s Report for Swan 2015-16.

You will also find attached the Mental Health Charter’s response to the Labour Party Consultation Document on ‘Health and Social Care/Mental Health: the way forward’. The original consultation can be accessed at

Due to the tight schedule of our conference, much of what normally occurs during the AGM is this year available online.

Please take your time to read.


SWAN Steering Committee