Letter to IASSW in respect of Palestine

Dear IASSW colleagues

Palestine has once again become the central issue in international politics. Since May, we have seen violent attacks by Israeli forces on worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the month of Ramadan; the attempted eviction of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem; vicious pogroms by far-right Jewish settlers in Jerusalem and in Israeli towns; brutal policing which has seen demonstrators shot dead; and an aerial bombardment of Gaza which has killed at least 248 Palestinians (including 61 children), and injured thousands more. According to the UN, over 38,000 Palestinians have been internally displaced by the recent violence and are seeking protection in 48 UNRWA schools across Gaza, while over 2,500 people have been made homeless due to the destruction of their homes. Ten Israelis are also reported to have died as a result of missiles fired from Gaza.

Medical Aid for Palestine reports that Israeli airstrikes have damaged or destroyed water and electricity infrastructure, medical facilities including a primary health centre which provides Covid-19 testing and vaccinations, and targeted roads to two main hospitals in Gaza, restricting access for emergency services. Health professionals have reportedly been killed. The targeting of a refugee camp in Gaza, which killed 10 members of one family, has been condemned by the UN secretary general.

The UN has acknowledged that the recent violence is linked to the planned evictions of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah and systematic violations of Palestinian rights.

In response to these events, however, there has been resistance by Palestinians on a scale not seen for many years not only in Gaza and the West Bank but also within Israeli towns. That has included a well-supported General Strike called by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and a thousands-strong demonstration of Jews and Arabs in Tel Aviv opposed to the brutal policies of the Netanyahu Government. Globally we have seen some of the largest demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians for many years, including a demonstration of 180, 000 in London.

As social work academics affiliated to the Social Work Action-International, we do not believe that the global social work profession and its organisations can remain  silent in the face of such brutal repression and oppression. It is incumbent on us as social workers opposed to all forms of oppression to join our voices with solidarity movements around the world who are seeking to put pressure on their governments to stop supporting Israel politically, to stop funding and arming it and to demand justice for Palestine. We therefore call on the IASSW to issue a clear statement expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people and with our Palestinian social work colleagues and calling for an end to the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories (including the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem) and to the  ongoing systematic discrimination faced by Palestinians in Jerusalem and the occupied territories.

In solidarity

SWAN-I Steering committee

7th June 2021

SWAN statement of support for the #StopSIM Coalition

The High Intensity Network (HIN) and associated ‘Serenity Integrated Mentoring’ (SIM) model of care has been increasingly widely promoted by NHS England since 2016. According to HIN’s website, the issue that the SIM model seeks to address is the “intensive demand on police, ambulance, A&E departments, and mental health crisis teams” from “a small number of ‘high-intensity users’ who struggle with complex trauma and behavioural disorders”[1]. This group of service users are people who have not committed a crime but are frequently at high risk of suicide and self-harm.

In response, the HIN/SIM model promotes an intensified form of multi-agency working between the police, and emergency and NHS mental health services. This involves joint working between mental health professionals and police officers, with police access to medical records and involvement in planning and multi-professional intervention with this group of service users. As critics of HIN/SIM have noted, this involves a “blurring of boundaries between therapeutic (health services) responses and coercive (police service) responses”[2]. Furthermore, many of the intervention strategies promoted within HIN/SIM involve punitive behavioural approaches that may intensify harms and distress for those with histories of complex trauma[3].

In response the #StopSIM Coalition, a campaigning network of mental health service users and allies, has formed to challenge the HIN/SIM model. The Coalition has identified and highlighted a range of significant issues including:

  • Human rights concerns, in particular SIM strategies that may legitimise withholding of potentially lifesaving treatment from service users by agencies including A&E, mental health, ambulance and police services.
  • Lack of meaningful service user involvement in the design, monitoring and implementation of HIN/SIM.
  • Data protection concerns with regard to police access to service users’ medical records.

The Social Work Action Network (SWAN) shares the significant concerns about HIN/SIM raised by the #StopSIM Coalition and outlined above. SWAN fully supports the aims of the #StopSIM Coalition which are to:

  • Halt the rollout and delivery of SIM with immediate effect, as well as interventions operating under a different name, which are associated with HIN.
  • Conduct an independent review and evaluation of SIM in regards to its evidence base, safety, legality, ethics, governance and acceptability to service users.

For SWAN, initiatives such as HIN/SIM represent a top-down ‘fix’ to reduce user demand on mental health and other services in the context of over a decade of swingeing austerity cuts that have severely restricted availability of and access to what remains of supportive forms of mental health provision. We argue that what is needed are not increasingly coercive interventions and gatekeeping of limited services, but significant investment in community-based and user-led forms of social and therapeutic support to address the needs of those experiencing distress related to histories of trauma (and any other form of mental distress).

For more information and to support the #StopSIM Coalition: stopsim.co.uk

Social Work Action Network (SWAN) Steering Committee

24th May 2021

[1] https://highintensitynetwork.org/

[2] https://profallanhouse.co.uk/should-the-police-be-included-in-mental-health-crisis-teams/

[3] https://www.psychiatryisdrivingmemad.co.uk/post/behaviourism-bpd-and-the-high-intensity-network