Submit your proposals for workshops at the #SWAN2019 Conference!

This year’s Swan conference is a fast paced one day affair, with a huge number of speakers available for your enjoyment. Nevertheless, we are reserving space for 20 workshops to run during the very popular Workshop Stream.

We are inviting you to submit proposals relevant to the topics covered during the conference, the full schedule of which is available here.

Swan aims to promote diversity and inclusivity within its timetable. The workshop stream is a great opportunity for often marginalised voices to be heard and for international perspectives to be presented.

Papers can be presentations (speaker focused) or workshops (interactive), but must run for no more than 20 minutes, and 10 minutes will be allocated for audience questions.



Radical Social Work In Tumultuous Times: Fighting For Equality and Social Justice!

We are pleased to announce that booking is now open for our annual conference on the 6th April. This year’s conference is a one day affair, packed to the rafters with speakers of outstanding calibre representing local campaign groups, families and individuals working with social workers and professionals from across the social work world.

Book here!

The conference takes place against a backdrop of growing economic crisis, continuing austerity, Government meltdown over Brexit and the growth of right-wing populism and racism (in the UK and internationally). From Brazil to Hungary, right wing politicians are trying to push back gains made over generations for women’s, LGBT+, workers and indigenous rights.

But it’s not all gone their way. Over the last year we have witnessed the magnificent victory for women’s rights in 8th Amendment campaign in Ireland and the growth of the anti-austerity ‘yellow vest’ movement in France.

What has been the impact of austerity and cuts on children’s, adults’ or mental health services? In the face of managerialism, how do we retain our values? How do we counter the rise of racism and Islamophobia? What do we say to counter Transphobia? How do we support refugee rights? How can we support the struggles of Palestinians?

These and similar questions will be addressed at this year’s SWAN conference. To enrich the debate we have a fantastic list of speakers, including:

  • Gill Archer (Unison national officer)
  • Prof Brid Featherstone (Uni of Huddersfield)
  • Professor Dave Whyte (University of Liverpool)
  • Dr Dave Scott (Open University)
  • Nahella Ashraf (Stand Up To Racism)
  • Bob Findlay Williams (DPAC)

We also have sessions run by campaigning social work organisations like Social Work Without Borders (SWWB), UK/Pal Social Work Network, the Campaign Against Prison Expansion (CAPE), and In Defence of Youth Work (IDYW)

Book here!

To top it all off there will be a range of stalls from campaigning organisations and a bookshop selling radical books and merchandise.

The conference is exceptionally cheap, £15 for students and £20 for non-students (and we have 50 free places for refugees and service users).

The price even includes teas and coffees and a packed lunch.

If you would like one of the free places, please email

For the FULL SCHEDULE please click here.

Social Workers invited to Palestine April 2019 with PALUK.

Proposed Social Work trip to Palestine April 2019

Palestine UK Social Work Network (PALUK)

This Network was conceived following the launch of the Global Development Agenda for Social Work, which was launched at the 2010 Biennial IFSW Global Conference.

Under the auspices of this agenda we have sought to develop effective peer-to-peer social work relationships, between Palestinian practitioners and UK based practitioners.

In 2019 we are eager to renew our commitment to the network.  Our colleagues have continued to conduct their professional practice under the ongoing duress of occupation, and at considerable personal and professional risk. Over and above the daily restrictions of movement and harassment at checkpoints, several of our colleagues have either been killed through military actions, have been imprisoned or have had their family members arrested and imprisoned.

We are eager to continue to engage with our Palestinian colleagues. Whilst we have sought to continue to raise awareness about our understanding of their situation here in the UK, we would like to continue to be relevant partners to our colleagues. It is clear that the publicity generated here in the UK regarding the arrest and detention of a prominent social worker has helped to raise global awareness, and as such, has been valued by Palestinian colleagues.

PALUK successfully facilitated a delegation of nearly 50 UK social workers to Palestine in 2014, and this attracted great interest, as it was a tangible expression of global solidarity, for our professional colleagues.

It’s clearly time that we revisited this, or something similar. Those of us who were involved at the initial point had already read “Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape “ by the noted Palestinian author and civil rights campaigner Raja Shehadeh (2008). Further we were aware of the success and the impact of the BASW lead event in 2017 “Boot out Austerity” where the social work profession took a stance in raising awareness of the impact of the government’s policy of austerity on the lives of our clients. In essence, we feel that walking together as an act of solidarity, has a lengthy credentials.

Thus PALUK is proposing a trip for UK social workers to join with us on a walk in Palestine jointly with our Palestinian colleagues in April.  We will walk from the city of Nablus, through the Palestinian countryside and olive groves , staying with villagers for three days until we reach the city of Jericho. In addition we will visit the Freedom Theatre in Jenin and meet with colleagues there. We will visit the notorious Ofer Military courts in Ramallah, and visit projects in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron.

 This trip is being coordinated in partnership with our Palestinian colleagues and the Siraj Centre in Bethlehem, who have extensive experience in organizing such trips

Please see attached article re rambling in Palestine

Please note that we hope to film and document this trip for future use, and will seek the consent of participants prior to the trip

We also would like to draw up a draft list of participants  and please note we are restricted to 20-25 participants at most

For expressions of interest and further details regarding dates, price, itinerary, costs, and requirements, please e mail

SWAN statement on Bristol’s social care: When ‘Better Care’ means worse care.

Austerity hit Bristol City’s social care services – when “Better Care” is worse care.

The South West region of the Social Work Action Network (a nation-wide, radical, campaigning organisation of social work and social care practitioners, students, service users, carers and academics) has, in the past 9 months, been pursuing a campaign to persuade Bristol City Council that their Better Care scheme for adult care services in the city is having a detrimental effect on both service user well-being and social worker professional practice.

We wrote to the Director of Adult Care Services in March 2018 expressing our concerns, gleaned following a request for information from nearly 200 social workers, student social workers and service users in the South West of England.

SWAN concerns:

* There has been increased monitoring and scrutiny of service users, experienced by them as intrusive, reframed by managers as promoting independence but seen as cost-reducing in purpose.

* Social workers tell us that the cost reduction agenda is openly pushed by managers with little regard to service user need

* Service users tell us they are increasingly reluctant to contact adult care because they are scared that it may trigger an intrusive and oppressive review.

* Pre-payment cards are being used to control service users – again, social workers and service users believe, to reduce budgets.

* Management are pushing practices that would appear to be unlawful under Care Act guidance: e.g. assessments dependent on agreeing to accept a pre-payment card; offsetting carer support against personal budgets/packages of care.

* Social workers are experiencing dwindling community/voluntary resources but being put under pressure to refer service users to them because they are of no cost to the authority.

SWAN’s Conclusions

* SWAN believe that Bristol City Council Adult Care Services have listened respectfully to what we have to say.

* BCC accepts the problems of austerity and cuts but insist that the Better Lives model (bought for an undisclosed cost from Impower the social care consultancy firm) is good because it is both effective and social workers like it.

* The Council accepts that they need to ensure there is more discussion about these issues amongst social workers and this is going to be facilitated through the Social Work Board.

* They also accept that there needs to be far more service user involvement or co-production as they called it.

* Whilst SWAN is pleased to have been given a hearing and to have had some of its arguments accepted, we do not believe Adult Care Services are going to do anything about the poor state of services for older and disabled people in Bristol, beyond raising the issues internally.

* SWAN does not know how any progress will be monitored and evaluated.

* Fundamentally, there was no acceptance that a change of direction was required to make things better for both service users and social workers.

* SWAN believes that Bristol City Council needs to fight back against central government’s continuing policy of austerity which Bristol Council have put into action by making huge cuts to services at all levels.

* Bringing care services back into local authority democratic control would be a start to ensuring service users get the services they require, and for which the local authority would be accountable.

* The involvement of service users in the planning and delivery of services would ensure that those services meet their expressed needs.

More information and details of these concerns, and the Bristol City Council response

The Social Work Action Network (SWAN) is a radical, campaigning organisation of social work and social care practitioners, students, service users, carers and academics. We are united by, amongst other things, our concern to challenge the disastrous effect of austerity on social care, and the domination of social work and social care services by managerialist perspectives and practices which prioritise budgets, targets and outcomes over the needs of the people who use services. We campaign nationally and regionally against injustice and the marginalisation of service user’s interests and social work professionalism.

Some service users with substantial needs are required to keep detailed diaries of their daily living. Managers then require social workers to study the diaries, looking for parts of the day when care or support from personal assistants is not needed. Those periods (sometimes of only 15 minutes) are then totalled up and reframed as opportunities for independence, when care is not required. Their personal budgets are reduced accordingly. This is even being applied where an individual has been assessed as requiring 24 hour care for their safety and well-being.

Some service users have been allocated a pre-paid card to buy their care, as is their choice according to the law. We have information that service users are being

threatened with withdrawal of resources if they do not accept a pre-paid card even if they do not want one. The pre-paid card is like a credit card that has a service user’s personal budget added. They can then spend the amount allocated following assessment of their needs, on the services and resources that they believe will meet those assessed needs. It is useful for some service users but others find it intrusive and restrictive. Council like them because they can monitor expenditure more easily – how much is being spent, and on what. It also, as the manufacturers indicated in their sales pitch, means that Councils can reduce a service user’s allocation much more easily.

One area of focus for Bristol’s Better Lives programme is on community resources. SWAN is very committed to this as a way of working – ensuring service users can receive the services they require in their local communities, but again, the ravages of national austerity policy means there are fewer of these services available. We raised the issue of accessibility to these community resources. Social Workers are being pressured into referring service users to these services even though, without adequate transport or support available, they are not readily accessible.

SWAN strongly argues that genuine co-production with service-users is essential. It is our view that involvement by service users in policy, practice and service development in Bristol, is tokenistic and that BCC needs to prioritise this way of working. SWAN argue that knowledge and expertise required is already in the city, and that both Disabled People’s Organisations and SWAN are sources of advice.

Social Workers have given us information suggesting that BCC management is pressurising them to act unlawfully. 1) There is evidence of service users being told their level of personal budget is dependent on accepting a pre-paid card. 2) Social workers are being told to include care provided by relatives as part of their assessed needs. Both of these practices are outside of The Care Act guidance.

For further information please get in touch with the South West region SWAN contact:

Mark Baldwin (Dr), Senior Lecturer in Social Work (retired)

Mobile: 07757506472 Email: