From Neoliberalism to Mental Wealth: Demanding Radical Change in MH Policy at the Labour Conference 2017.

 The first speaker, Denise McKenna from mental health service user/survivor campaign Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), argued powerfully that the Tory government is brutally denying and minimizing the extent of the mental distress experienced by service users to justify cuts to services and benefits. She argued that, though users were rightly critical of psychiatric services in the past, recent years have seen a profound shift away from positive elements such as counselling that aimed to improve service users’ quality of life towards short-term ‘work-cure’ therapies to force claimants off welfare and cut services.

Following this Paul Atkinson from radical therapists network the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy (ACP) argued for a paradigm shift in mental health policy and practice. He emphasised the social and political causes of distress such as traumatic experiences, exploitative workplaces and a discriminatory society. Consequently, he argued, we need social change to address these causes and genuine service user control to ensure holistic support for survivors.

Denise and Paul’s talks stimulated a lively discussion about how to achieve these aims amongst a diverse audience including activists from Disabled People Against Cuts, Free Psychotherapy Network, Social Work Action Network (SWAN), MHRN and ACP, as well as Labour conference delegates, including councillors and trade unionists.

One of the central aims of the meeting was to discuss how to influence Labour Party policy on mental health. Several speakers argued that though reversing mental health cuts is crucial Labour needs to go beyond a ‘more of the same’ biomedical approach. There was resolve to campaign for radical change in Labour’s approach to mental health with the aim of a policy that promotes more holistic and user-led forms of support and ways of understanding mental distress. Proposals for taking this forward included taking the proposals from this meeting into wider debates at the Labour conference but also beyond that into Labour branches, trade unions and Momentum groups.

Others noted the importance of organizing against mental health service and welfare cuts and continuing to strengthen our alliances of resistance. Umbrella networks such as the Mental Health Activist Alliance that bring together survivors, disabled people, mental health workers, trade unionists and community campaigners have already played an important role by organising a number of actions and lobbies against psychocompulsion. Attendees resolved to continue to build and broaden these emerging networks and campaigning activities to achieve the radical changes that are urgently needed in mental health and welfare policy and practice.


For more information about the meeting and campaigners’ demands:

 Rich Moth

Social Work Action Network (SWAN)











SWAN joins SWWB in condemning G4S and Brook House detention centre.

Our government’s insistence on giving profit making contracts to a company whose international reputation is extremely concerning beggars belief. Examples of cruelty abound, our asylum system is not fit for purpose.

Please read and share the attached statement, and consider what this means for social workers assessing and engaging with those going through the asylum and refugee system. We must protest such inhumane treatment.

Free Open Event: ‘Social Work and The Grenfell Tower Tragedy’ – London Oct 10th.

Event: ‘Social Work and the Grenfell Tower tragedy’
Time and date: 7pm-9pm on Tuesday 10th October 2017
Location / address: Keyworth Lecture Theatre A, Keyworth Centre, Keyworth Street, SE1 6NG
Nearest tube / busElephant & Castle is just metres from the campus and offers both the Bakerloo and Northern lines. A large number of buses travel to and connect in the Elephant and Castle area from across London
This event featuring speakers and discussion will look at the events surrounding the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it’s context of austerity in economic and social policy, poverty and the response of social work and social workers.
The event will feature:
– Anna Gupta, Professor of Social Work, Royal Holloway University of London on the political context of inequalities and how in the richest borough in the country, children burnt to death in public housing.
– A representative from the Grenfell Tower Action Group 
– Possibly one of the social workers who participated in the aftermath of the tragedy
In the immediate aftermath of the incident in June this year, SWAN issued the following statement: 
Please spread news of this event widely across your networks! Please contact us on with any questions.


Factsheet For Practitioners And Campaigners – No Recourse To Public Funds

Produced by a wonderful SWAN member who has researched and practised in this area, this fact-sheet is designed to help you initially navigate terminology and legislation. Whilst all attempts should be made to access legal advice, this is a great start for those who feel their practice is being compromised through a lack of knowledge, and pressure to reduce access to the welfare state.

In Scotland, SASW are interested in your stories on this topic. SWAN will also share any experiences that you have had.

Please read and share this as widely as you can!