Reflections upon the realities of working during COVID-19

I am an Adults Services social worker, working from home with my partner and our children. While she’s a part time teacher, and it’s difficult on the days when we’re both working, we have work, we are managing and we are safe. 
That’s not to say that Covid-19, hasn’t significantly altered working life for me and for others in our council. 
Like others, tragically, we have lost scores of our clients in the community, supported living placements and residential care homes to Covid-19. We’ve also had at least one member of staff working in front line social care. One of my own clients has died, not from Covid-19, but I attended her funeral remotely by video link – unfortunately we couldn’t get flowers to the funeral parlour in time for the funeral itself. 
As a rep in our Union branch, we know all about the tussle our members have had in both in house and private social care provision due Covid-19 period and the measures taken in haste to respond to the Pandemic which have not been planned or gone through consultation. We’ve had some success in getting a closer link with the leadership of the council during this time and we have twice weekly teleconferences in which we’ve been able to influence existing ideas and plans, but key HR/TU meetings have been postponed.
Just as it has been odd working via video and telephone only with clients in social work practice, it’s also been odd as a union rep trying to advocate without being able to read the dynamics in the room so easily. 

There have been some positive, though imperfect, responses to Covid-19. For example, we have a huge team of redeployees within the council working on contacting people who are on the NHS’ extremely vulnerable or shielding list which comes to us from Public Health England in dribs and drabs each day. 

Thoughts about working practices: 
1. Management oversight has changed and is somewhat paranoid – The first change was unease by managers that they could not oversee productivity within the team in the same way. I know social workers in other local authorities have been able to fight this off collectively, but at present we have daily task lists to complete. It was a real drain on the team in the early weeks when we were told continually that we weren’t being productive (as people were still figuring out how to use the recording sheet) and that we could all well be redeployed within the council. I suspect for many social workers during this period, they’ll be familiar with just how much time was spent setting up new processes and procedures, chopping and changing between the strategic priorities for the team, finding new ways of doing work, trying to stay abreast of the tide of new guidance, policy and comments on social work practice and, of course, completing the list itself! The impact on practitioners is that opportunities for greater autonomy in practice are curtailed. 
2. Checking on people who are shielding, proactive but top down work – there has been a top down community social work approach formulated by our council’s leadership. This has involved the formation of a team of redeployees making calls to those most extremely vulnerable to COVID19 (shielding), – this is checking that people who are self-isolating have access to groceries, medication and some kind of social contact, as well as checking on their welfare. This has also  involved social workers regularly working at weekends and evenings. We have been expected to persist until we have contacted the client. 
The problem is this means we regularly run over agreed time slots and it has contributed to a sense of shapelessness of the working day and weekend. When you are at and away from work is now more blurry. Shielding work is in theory voluntary for social workers, but with managerial and peer pressure, that is unclear. Some social workers have been put on lists without their permission. There have even been occasions when we have sent out social workers to do emergency home visits by accident, who were in the ‘at risk’ category for Covid-19 infection themselves. However, it has been interesting working across client groups (children to adults, and those with various impairments and social circumstances) and with the general public in a different way. 
What we’ve not been doing so much, and what I and others in my team have been doing, is pushing for proactive work with those outside of the Shielding list – for instance making checks on a wider section of our clients by telephone. Instead for the most part, we’ve adopted a passive approach in which people come to us. 
3. Access to PPE – this has been the main issue as a Trade Unionist, as a limited supply of PPE was initially available. While our council tells us we have adequate stocks, we have had instances where members in social care provision did not have PPE – for instance when facemasks were not available when working in children’s centre (we had an instance of a child deliberately coughing on staff). In passenger services who help transport young people with complex behavioural needs to college, who are regularly much less than 1m away,  for sometimes did not have this PPE available. Our council has given a 10% wage uplift to local private and in house social care, which is welcome, but it will not be extended out to others like those in passenger services or benefits offices who are coming into close contact with the public all day every day during C19. This  is a developing patchwork and we have to shine a light on the holes. 
4. Risk assessments and rights at work – we had difficulty in getting hold of risk assessments with people questioning why we would need to see these. Under health and safety law, TU reps can request these. We are just getting under the surface of this now. What we have seen is initially poor, just reprints of generic govt guidance on C19 – no attempt to transpose these into the individual workplace or working practices and issues of each team. Our comments have been grumpily accepted so far. 
5.  Whats app and other social media meeting groups – social media chats have had the impact of democratising and providing the opportunity for peer-to-peer discussion outside of the usual management structures. For instance, there is now more frequent contact and opportunities to raise issues and share ideas. Certainly it has affected the usual rigid supervisory and management changes (I know as a supervisor!) into mutual discussion and support with cases. 
There is mutual support offered within groups and they have provided great ways of sharing new documentation such as policy and guidance. 
Equally, these can negatively affect the working day, with work related comment and discussion in the evenings and weekends. 
6. Impact on clients and practice with clients. There has been a big impact on my client group. People with learning disabilities not understanding Covid-19 and social distancing / stay at home guidance, anxiety caused by being housebound and services grinding to a halt.  Lock down initially meant people with learning disabilities and autism were not able to exercise more than once a day – who have an exceptional need to do so (such as to enable a sensory diet or to manage mental health issues). This was not considered for weeks – discrimination against people with such impairments.

Face to face visits have been replaced by video calls for the most part – this is extremely difficult when working with people who have alternative or augmentative communication methods. It is potentially harder to prevent family carers speaking entirely for a client without really seeing or hearing from them. When conducting emergency home visits – we’ve had to turn up in full PPE, especially for safeguarding visits. This has created its own strange dynamic. I had to visit one family for an at risk client – my manager and I were wearing facemasks, plastic aprons, gloves and shoe protectors, I felt as though I looked like a cross between smurf and Darth Vader. It didn’t do much for the power imbalance and setting to the conditions for a sensitive conversation. 
7. What happens next? This is the key question. It is crucial to ensure safety while this carries on and that we don’t return to our usual work places too soon and without proper planning. This has been our biggest ever exercise in home and flexible working, which is potentially an opportunity. Alongside this may sit less personal one to one contact with clients, a loss of the physical team. The risk is that workers will be split apart from working collectively, feeling isolated. With more individualism there is likely to be more division, more virtual management. Perhaps there will be less opportunities or at least new platforms to communicate and advocate with and on behalf of clients.
Early May 2020

Rethinking Child Protection & Adoption: Achieving Social Justice in Practice

By Clarissa Stevens, Fran Proctor, Amanda Boorman, Barbara Rishworth, Abbie Unwin, Brid Featherstone, Andy Bilson


This article presents summaries of contributions made at the Rethinking Fostering and Adoption: Achieving social justice in practice plenary during the Social Work Action Network (SWAN) conference on 6th April 2019 at Liverpool Hope University. The session brought together speakers with a range of lived experience including as an adoptee and Childhood Trauma Specialist (Fran), a birth parent with experience of involvement in child protection proceedings/co-founder of the ReFrame Collective (Clarissa), adoptive parent, campaigner for open adoption reforms and founder of the Open Nest charity (Amanda), and social work academic and co-author of the British Association of Social Work’s (BASW) Adoption Enquiry (Brid). For this article, further additional contributions come from Emeritus Professor of Social Work (Andy) and co-founders of the ReFrame Collective (Barbara and Abbie).

The article combines brief summaries which give a sense of the diversity of the conference contributions, whilst reflecting a shared view that the current child protection and adoption system requires radical transformation in order to become more humane, supportive and socially just. The first two sections of the article outline the ‘investigative turn’ in children’s services, and key findings from the BASW Adoption Enquiry respectively. The third, fourth and fifth sections make the case for radical reforms of the child protection and adoption systems from the perspectives of those who are most directly affected, adoptees and birth families, offering a range of views on the need for support, inclusion and the importance of preventing trauma.

All of the contributors are active campaigners for reform of the child protection and adoption systems, and their social media and contact details are given to enable readers to find out more and get involved with these initiatives.

The ‘investigative turn’ in children’s social care servicesProfessor Andy Bilson

In England and other English speaking countries there has been an “investigative turn” with a huge change in the way that children’s social care responds to concerns for the welfare of children. There have been cuts in support for families and increases in child protection investigations leading to more children separated from parents. The number of section 47 investigations has increased every year since 2005. The graph below shows this trend between 2010 and 2018. Investigations doubled because the proportion of referrals leading to an investigation increased from 15% to 30%. One in every 16 children were investigated before their fifth birthday in 2017.

As investigations increased they became much less likely to be followed by a child protection plan. In 2010, 50% of investigations led to a child protection plan, this fell to 35% in 2018. The 129,320 investigations not followed by a plan in 2018 cause collateral damage harming families and children who are unlikely to receive or accept help even where they have difficulties.

Where plans are made there has been little or no change in the numbers of those for physical or sexual abuse since 2010. All the increases have been in neglect or emotional abuse. I found that the increases in emotional abuse plans varied depending on the local authorities with some having very large and sudden increases whilst in others rates fell. These patterns are unlikely to stem from differences in levels of abuse in the community.

The numbers separated from parents have risen due to the increase in the number of children who on any one day are adopted from care, and increases in long stays in care. The graph shows how, despite the fall in new adoption placements since 2014, the number of children under 18 in adoption or special guardianship placements on a census date is now higher than the number in care despite this also having risen since 2008.

The graph also shows how the number of children in adoption and special guardianship placements will continue to increase reaching 111,500, almost 1% of those aged 0 to 17 in 2026 if the 2017 rate of placements continues until then.

Many children taken into care and those adopted have parents who have been in the care system. In 2014-15 at least 32% of all adopted children in Wales had one or both parents who were in care at age 16. Many more children had parents who had been in care but left before being 16. Similarly, 40% of parents who had recurrent care proceedings had been in care themselves.

I found that across England where rates of adoption from care had increased the numbers of children in care are also increasing whilst in local authorities with lower rates the numbers are decreasing pointing to a ‘culture of rescue’ in some areas. Also where adoption rates before the age of 5 had risen most child protection activity had increased by 96% compared with an average increase of 21%.

There were large differences in rates of children adopted not explainable by levels of deprivation. The graph below shows that 1.9% of all children in Southampton were adopted before age 5, far higher than any of its statistical neighbours. Differences are due both to rates of deprivation and a culture of rescue in some agencies.

This data thus shows the rapidly increasing use of investigations in response to families in difficulty alongside the increases in children removed from parental care. The large differences between local authorities suggests that these trends are affected by the decreasing support for families, increasing deprivation and a growing local culture of rescue.

Further information: or @Andy_Bilson

The role of the social worker in adoption: ethics and human rightsProfessor Brid Featherstone

While historically adoption has been promoted across the political spectrum and has often been attended by controversy, renewed concerns about particular aspects of this policy became evident from 2010 onwards especially in England. The push by policymakers to increase adoption numbers in the context of austerity, the use of reduced court timescales, and the number of adoptions that dispense with parental consent became the focus of attention from a range of national and international commentators.

Such concerns became framed by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) as ethical and human rights issues and led it, in 2016, to commission: ‘The role of the social worker in adoption – ethics and human rights: An enquiry’

In total 300 individuals and 13 organisations contributed to the Enquiry. Social workers or managers with a social work background were the largest group (105), followed by birth family members (56), adoptive parents (44), adopted people (32), academics (24) and related professionals (24).

The key findings were:

  • The use of adoption needs to be discussed in the context of wider social policies and the impact on already disadvantaged families and communities.
  • The current model of adoption fails to recognise multiple attachments and complex identities.
  • A rethink of contact arrangements between adopted children and their families is needed.
  • There is little evidence of human rights talk among social workers.
  • Social workers were, however, concerned about the reduction in resources for birth families and the policy emphasis on adoption in that context.

The Enquiry report is available at

Further information: @Acsocialwork

The need for radical transformation of the child protection system Clarissa Stevens, Barbara Rishworth and Abbie Unwin (ReFrame Collective)

ReFrame is a collective of parents with experience of the child protection (CP) system, professionals and academics. We are passionate about seeing change in how we support parents and families who are at risk of becoming, or are involved in care proceedings in relation to their own children. We believe that the current CP system requires radical transformation in order to become more humane, supportive and socially just, and that parents should be centrally involved in this transformation. We recognise the need for systemic change that acknowledges the political ideologies that underpin our current social care and health systems. We aim to create opportunities to promote the social inclusion of birth parents, while raising awareness of their experiences, through direct support, co-produced projects and social action initiatives.

Austerity policies alongside a risk-averse context have led to the numbers of parents involved in the CP system rising, with the number of babies removed from parents doubling in the last 8 years. Local authorities are under immense pressure to do more with less and to ‘keep children safe’ without frameworks that address the fundamental underlying factors e.g. poverty, deprivation and disability. Certain groups are disproportionately involved in the system, e.g. those who have grown up in care are 66 times more likely to have their children taken into care (Jackson & Simon, 2005), those exposed to domestic violence (48.1%), and those who have experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences (56%), yet contextual issues are overlooked with social inequalities/socio-political contexts being translated into individual problems and diagnoses (Broadhurst et al., 2017).

Dominant narratives held about parents have resulted in their being positioned in limiting ways. Parents have described feeling marginalised by the current system, talking of the scrutiny they faced rather than of receiving support. For example, there are cases in which women in relationships characterised by domestic violence are criminalised for failing to protect their children from abusive partners, obscuring the complexities of such situations. Women have described being unaware of the violent and abusive nature of their relationships, fearing leaving or feeling that there is nowhere else for them to go, and feeling caught in a ‘catch 22’ situation in which they hide their relationship from professionals for fear of the repercussions. The positioning of parents within the current system often leaves them without adequate or appropriate support (Broadhurst et al., 2017).

As a collective, ReFrame draws on Liberation Psychology approaches and Community Psychology. These approaches recognise the role of power and privilege in the health and wellbeing of a community, and believe that people affected by a problem have unique knowledge and skills to inform solutions. We feel it is essential that the voices of parents, adoptees and those in care are placed at the centre as a justice issue, in order that we can begin to understand the lived experiences of people who have been involved in the CP system. Only then can we begin to develop and transform services accordingly.

We aim to reframe dominant narratives about parents by raising awareness of the contexts and inequalities involved in the current CP system. We currently provide co-produced training and consultation and are keen to collaborate with parents and professionals on collective awareness raising projects. We hope to create a UK-wide network of organisations and individuals advocating for wider systemic change.

If you would like to get in touch you can follow ReFrame on twitter @re_frame_ or email us at

Campaigning for radical reform of the adoption system Amanda Boorman (founder of Open Nest)

The Open Nest charity has been campaigning for radical adoption reform since it formed in 2013. Its trustees came together as a group of people all affected by adoption from different perspectives (mostly either adoptees or adopters) but all dismayed at the conservative governments ‘adoption drive’.

This drive towards adoption reform began with Michael Gove who shifted £150 million from the Early Intervention fund to adoption recruitment and reform. This failed to put adopted people themselves at the forefront of development, and removed support services such as family centres that helped parents. 

Alongside the harsh politics of austerity the very worst aspects of adoption were held up as positive including quicker removals of children, shortened timescales for adoption placement, and contact with birth families made less important and more difficult. Alongside this, the Adoption Support Fund turned the loss and grief experienced by both children and adults in the adoptive process into a condition for which government funded and private agencies could create marketable products. 

Adoption in the UK is currently set against a cultural and social background where a women who has experienced being in care is 66 times more likely to have a child removed than a woman who is not care experienced. Where living in certain parts of the country means you are far more likely to have a child removed than a family living elsewhere. Where a large proportion of learning disabled women have children removed and where women who are victims of domestic violence and abuse can lose their children forever. 

Adoption currently fails to recognise that it cruelly ignores poverty, inequality and injustice against women. Adoption recruitment takes place outside affluent supermarkets and children are marketed on Twitter.

Open Nest have refused to accept or apply for government funding for the work we do supporting those upon whom adoption has had negative and life changing consequences as it would potentially silence our opinions.

We believe that this reform period will be looked back upon with shame and a time when many social workers felt they were carrying out work in line with policies they felt uncomfortable with.

Now is the time for adoption professionals to speak out and stand up for family rights and in particular women’s rights in relation to adoption policy and practice.  

Further information: and @TheOpenNest or @BoormanAmanda

Supporting Adoptees and Preventing Trauma – Fran Proctor (Adoptee and Childhood Trauma Specialist)​

I believe in many situations open adoption can be an appropriate intervention on behalf of children who need to keep important links to their birth families and family history. However, and although being a minority, there are children whose parents were abusive, violent and in some cases have committed serious crimes. 

My personal story of adoption and the care system is that my sister and I were removed due to abuse. I was adopted and my sister was returned. My sister was murdered at the age of 7. How this information was later delivered, assessed and recorded created huge amounts of unnecessary secondary trauma for me which impacted my life greatly.  ​

Five things that I believe would have potentially prevented additional trauma in my own life, and would reduce added trauma in the life of a child or young person who has been removed due to abusive or an abusive biological parent, are: ​

  1. Not encouraging the adoptee to identify with birth family culture unless this comes from the individual themselves. Assuming that we would want the same identity as an abuser or someone who has abused us can be really traumatising and may leave us feeling like we will turn out the same or that we are inherently flawed.​
  2. Searching for answers and asking questions about our past does not mean we are asking for a relationship, and this assumption should never be made. Therapeutic support should always be available though to make any informed choices about the future and any contact if asked for.​
  3. Find healthy ways to help a child or a young person to make small steps forward the best they can. Talking over and over about the past and any trauma can put an individual in a place of re-traumatisation only to impact negatively on mental health and wellbeing causing more problems in everyday life. ​
  4. Being adopted/removed means that you live a parallel life to a greater or lesser extent. New information that comes to light should be delivered in a timely, age appropriate, safe and careful manner so that there are no huge shocks that are so overwhelming that it makes it impossible to cope.​
  5. It can be assumed that once you are adopted/removed, and once you have a different life everything is okay, you are okay. This is usually not the case, and what a lot of children and young people need to hear is that it’s okay to not be okay, and that the things that have happened are not their fault. ​

Further information: @Fran_Proctor, or

Independent Living For All!

SWAN is pleased to publish a short paper that proposes a campaign to make independent living, as defined by the United Nations, the driving force for social care. This is timely. The evidence is making it inarguable that the personalisation strategy, founded on notions of consumerism, is failing and cannot succeed. It leaves an intellectual void – which way next? More funding may bring short term relief, but more of the same excites no-one. The failure of the personalisation strategy follows the failure of the community care reforms twenty years before it. Neither made any impact on the fundamental politics that continue to dominate social care.

SWAN will be seeking to develop a discourse between disabled people, service users and social workers who seek a way to return to the profession’s ethical roots. We must move from protest to action. We believe this proposal will make a valuable contribution. We urge social workers to take the time to read and reflect.


by Colin Salsberg

The system based on managers commandeering of practitioners’ assessments must be brought to an end. Management does so to deliver on the fiscal imperative of ensuring spending matches budget whilst at the same time deliver on the political objective of maintaining the pretence that there is no gap between needs and resources. This is the nub of the eligibility based system. It’s a system that forces social workers to compromise their professional ethics, results in gross inequity of provision and worsens health inequalities. Its focus on risk and deficit leads to failure to build on the person’s strengths. It is an oppressive and dysfunctional system which facilitates cuts and hides resource limitations. Whilst the public rhetoric of sector leaders focusses on the importance of empowering service users, the eligibility system infantilises them. It allows them only to have ‘wishes’ and ‘preferences’ but not the power to identify their own needs. To this empty rhetoric is added the pretence of up-front allocations of money to enable ‘choice’ and thus ‘control’. However, up front allocations cannot and do not happen. The smokescreen is given further impenetrability by the pretence of the service being equitable through application of national eligibility criteria, but which are quite meaningless.[1]

A small number of service users and some practitioners have the skills and strength to beat the system in order to secure better support. But this is no solution. The eligibility system creates a zero sum game. If one person succeeds in establishing more of their needs as ‘eligible’ it is paid for by others who have less. Service users who achieved independent living through employing their own staff are now seeing year on year erosion of their funding, and some cuts as large as 50%.

The eligibility system is a policy choice. It is neither the legal requirement sector leaders claim it to be nor the inevitable consequence of resources falling short of need. The eligibility system is a policy that delivers short term, cynical but powerful political expedients.

This oppressive and destructive policy should be brought to an end. In a society based on rights and decency the solution will be to guarantee all the resources people require for the life that is right for them. However, there is no likelihood of this happening in the foreseeable future. The cost is not known. It is not knowable in advance. The highly individual nature of need and lifestyle and the huge variability in the cost of meeting these means a guarantee of funding could only be delivered without any budgetary restrictions. Not even the NHS is funded without a budget.

Spending should cease to be controlled by controlling what is deemed to be ‘need’. It should be controlled by decisions about which needs can be afforded. Two major consequences will follow. First it will allow the identification of authentic need. Secondly it will result in the honest and transparent exposure of the gap between needs and resources.

Whilst the legislature through the Care Act has established wellbeing as the means to measure how life should be, it has not set the standard of wellbeing that people should expect. The United Nations concept of Independent Living should be adopted as the standard of wellbeing all should be supported to aspire. The UN definition of Independent Living seeks only to ensure people have the kind of life others take for granted, able to make ‘choices equal to others’ so they can lead the lives they want without poverty or discrimination. It is the least a modern, diverse and civilised society should expect for its citizens in need of support. It applies to all in need of support, of all ages and all types of impairment. Authenticity of need should be established in relation to the support a person requires to experience independent living.

To make this possible,  the following will be required from Government, Councils and Social Workers.

Central Government

  1. Government must require practitioners, service users and carers to establish each person’s unique support needs for independent living. Government must build this requirement into the Statutory Guidance to the Care Act, replacing the misleading and ineffective guidance based on the consumerist ideology of personal budgets through up-front allocations as the means to personalise supports.
  2. Council budget managers must be required to make transparent decisions about how much of the required resources can be afforded for each individual. Government must build the revised approach to resource allocation process into the Statutory Guidance. It must also amend the Eligibility Regulations, restricting the legal duty to meet need to a minimum guarantee of life and limb. This will allow legal permission for the honesty required to acknowledge the level of need that current resources cannot meet.
  3. Aggregation of all needs that cannot be met so each council will know the cost of all to experience independent living. The Statutory Guidance must be amended to require councils to record and aggregate all needs not met. This information must be reported nationally in a consistent format. The Guidance must set out how the information will be used by central and local government in budget setting to ensure a). the funding gap is minimised and b). the equitable distribution of current resources.
  4. In moving from a system designed to identify ‘eligible’ needs to one designed to identify needs for independent living, transitional arrangements will be required in relation to people in the system at the time of the change. Some needs deemed ‘eligible’ under the previous system may not be seen to be needs that promote independent living in the new system. However, there will also be some needs previously deemed ‘eligible’ that will also be seen as needs for independent living in the new system. There is a clear moral argument that service users must not be punished by the transition. The Eligibility Regulations should make clear that all needs previously deemed ‘eligible’ which are assessed as needs for independent living should continue to be met in perpetuity of the need.

Local Government

It is clear that the primary legislation allows councils to take unilateral action ahead of changes to the Statutory Guidance, and by interpreting the Eligibility Regulations in a particular way that will allow them to adopt Independent Living as the standard of wellbeing for all assessments of need within their council and to replace eligibility of need with affordability of need as the means to control spending.

All councils should reflect on the evidence of the dysfunctional and oppressive nature of the current system and exercise their responsibility to their communities by making independent living the standard of wellbeing for all assessments, ending the use of eligibility to control spending.


Practitioners have felt powerless within the eligibility system. The frustration of those practitioners who have retained their professional idealism is greatly compounded by the way the system lays blame on them for all the system’s failings by stating that all decisions are the result of practitioners’ professional judgements, whilst ensuring the hand of management in shaping those decisions remains unseen.

All practitioners should study the evidence, and if in agreement with the need for change, to then seek to raise debates within their work place – with colleagues, operational managers, strategic managers and, where possible, members – in order to raise awareness of the widespread unmet need and limitation of people’s lifestyles and generate momentum for change both locally and nationally.

Practitioners should study guidance published by SWAN that addresses ethical and lawful practice within the current system. They should think through the extent to which the guidance might influence how they balance their commitment to social work’s ethics with their obligations as an employee. The guidance can be found here

[1] For an account of the evidence, see Ethical and lawful practice in assessment and support planning – the case for action, Critical and Radical Social Work, Vol 7.1 pp 111-117

Scotland Survey On Supported Employment For NQSWrs.

The Scottish Social Services Council, working with partners across the sector, has recently reviewed social work education in Scotland. One of the recommendations is that Scotland should introduce a mandatory, supported first year in practice for Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSWs). The Scottish Government are considering this recommendation and are now seeking to find out the sector’s views. A decision will then be made about undertaking further work on what a supported year might look like and how this could be delivered and resourced.
We are seeking views from organisations and individuals with an interest in the education of social workers. You can pass this link on to others, noting that we are distributing the link widely including to all registered social workers and social work students. Your views can make a difference – the views of the sector will influence what happens next, so please complete the survey.
The survey will take ~5 minutes to complete. You can take part in the survey by clicking on the link below:
The survey will remain open until 5pm on Friday 1st September 2017.
Your survey responses will be fully anonymous and will be stored securely. They will be accessed only by the relevant Scottish Government research team for the purposes of evaluation.
If you have any questions about this survey please contact
Thank you in advance for your help.

NAAS: The Pressure Is On – Sign UNISON’s petition!

Here is the link to the petition, which non- Unison members can also sign.    

UNISON is also working with the Social Work Tutor to spread the message: 

This includes a very articulate message encouraging social workers to take action.

The aim is to get as many signatures as possible over the summer.  

Please sign, please share, please get your colleagues to support the petition. 

SWAN STATEMENT ON THE GRENFELL DISASTER: Social work must critique policy not simply deliver it.

At the recent Social Work Action Network steering committee meeting, colleagues discussed the dreadful fire at Grenfell Towers.

Our immediate thoughts were, and are, with those directly affected by this most traumatic of events. 

Three weeks has passed: victims remain scared to accept the available temporary accommodation; the decision to pursue an inquiry over an inquest with a judge who immediately declares the limitations of his reach has caused deep distress; neighbouring councils are feeling the after affects as the role of private companies in social housing is dissected. SWAN believes it is essential that the social work community reflects critically upon the origins and handling of this disaster. Social workers both have unique skills for such a crisis, and are frequently deployed to deliver the aims of the local government. The abandonment of community social work is highlighted as a disaster in times of great need such as this, the real skills of social workers should be used to give voice to the victims and not to hide the incompetence of authorities. SWAN extends a thanks to all frontline workers doing their best to empower the victims.

We cannot ignore our duty to speak out. 

SWAN  believes that:

The fire at Grenfell was not a random event, it was a disaster waiting to happen. It was the result of cuts, of austerity, of privatisation of council housing, of deregulation, of out-sourcing and of inequality. 

That inequality meant that, in a Borough such as Kensington and Chelsea, the lives of ordinary people matter less to local politicians and local government officers than those of the fabulously wealthy who live in the Borough.

The fire, and the deaths, stand as a symbol of all that is wrong with new-liberal social policy. This was an example of ‘social murder’ – the unnecessary deaths of ordinary working people by a system skewed to meet the interests if the wealthy.

SWAN denounces the system of cuts, privatisation and deregulation that led to the catastrophe.

We offer our solidarity to the Grenfell community, to the volunteers who have self-organised to support their brothers and sisters in this time of trouble, and to those public sector workers who have been on the frontline saving lives, tackling fires, and supporting families. 

Below we print a first-hand account from a SWAN supporter in the area. This is a powerful critique that we would encourage you to read and share: 

“As a Development Worker and Sociologist I feel the Grenfell Tower Inferno should be called at very least corporate manslaughter and at worst holocaust.  Despite the stated 59 deaths (correct at time of writing) and rising it is clear that the numbers of dead have been suppressed to protect the guilty.  Performance artist Saku states on DVD that a fireman reported 200 dead and obviously it’s likely to be at least double that.  Despite the TMO calling on K&C for review of the safety at the block repeatedly, it was ignored.  Moreover, a law was proposed to tighten safety regulations in tower blocks but it was blocked by the Tory government, many of whose members are corporate landlords, who make considerable donations to their party.  LowKey, another singer, lived on the 15th floor.  He escaped through black smoke preventing any idea of where he was and how to reach a fire escape, after treading on what felt soft and realising later it was bodies….now reports say the fire escape had been blocked off to make way for an Academy School next door.  See how the council buys off planning opposition, by offering priority education at the expense of safety measures.

Some in the community feel it was a revenge attack to punish the Islamist terrorists, but a more likely source of the neglect is the fact that the poor in the community are regarded as not just disposable or undesirable but targets for ethnic cleansing, in order to create a borough with up-market residences and up-market residents.  This would entail demolishing the old tower blocks (or spending small fry budgets of £10m on “refurbishment” to repair faulty water, heating and insulating) rather than providing quality homes for them.  Quality homes cost, and no profit can be made on them if they’re inhabited by the unemployed, so the obvious solution for a Tory Borough Council being starved of funds by the Government is to “accidentally” allow a tragedy to occur which disposes of the undesirables.

Too cynical?  The RBK&C is the richest borough in London, in the UK.  For them to plead poverty is to ignore the plethora of community organisations which rallied round as soon as needed.  The BBC news broadcasts mentioned only the council-run services but not the grass roots organisations which know the area from within.  Maxilla and the other Under the Westway Youth Groups weren’t credited with the food stall set up free of charge for the survivors, the mattresses brought out for temporary respite for relatives and friends, nor the hundreds of helpers organised into teams to sort donations and accommodation in schools and community centres.

The fire service has been decimated, with 3 station closures in the area.  Teams brought in from elsewhere couldn’t get close enough fast enough because no local authority presence was there to assist and move parked cars. The Management of the fire service is corporate now, with Commanders brought in from the Army etc., not working their way up from the grass roots as in the past.  Corporate Management took advice from the US re: restricting tenants to their own flats.  If they had been in the service like the officers they might have given different directions. They’re divorced from the real work.  The firefighters who tried their best, were breaching rules to save lives, and at risk to themselves. Too few were available and those that were on site were over-age as union guidelines state.  Working conditions have been eroded.

I talked to local people and observed the love and pride  in them.  One young woman holding her toddler and turning round to take a wide view, told him: “Look. Remember this – this is your beautiful community working together.”  That says it all.


We would like to encourage other social workers to send us their reports so we can upload them, to ensure that worker and community voices are not silenced.  

Swan demands:

  1. That the government and Kensington and Chelsea Council provide full resources for the victims’ families and survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
  2. That all families should be rehoused immediately in suitable accommodation within the borough. Rehousing must take full account of the trauma people have been through – allocating families to high rise flats would not necessarily be in their best interests and the location of housing should be part of allocation procedures. .
  3. That social services must be supported to provide fully funded services to survivors and their families.
  4. That children who have lost their parents or carers should be housed suitably. This may be with family or friends or suitable foster homes. Whenever this is in the best interests of the child, this should be within the borough. 
  5. That fully funded and supported trauma and psychological support services should be made available to all victims.
  6. That the interests and needs of survivors and families of victims must always come first. People matter. Cost – in the richest borough, in the richest city in Europe – is secondary.


Written by Michael Lavalette (Convenor) and Alissa De Luca-Ruane (Deputy Convenor) with independent contribution from Ruth Appleton. 




This version was amended 7/717 to include the term ‘corporate manslaughter’ in the opinion piece.

SWWB On Removing Children From Families With NRPF: Read This!

Social Workers Without Borders volunteers are deeply concerned by an article released this week by the Guardian Social Care Network titled “We’ll house your children, but not you”. In this article, voluntary sector organisations say local authorities across the UK are telling asylum seeking and migrant families with No Recourse to Public Funds that they have a duty to their children and not to them. This interpretation of duty implies that Local Authorities will house children, separating them from their parents who will remain destitute.

Read the full article below, which offers practical advice for practitioners on how to challenge the abuse of families. Please share it with your colleagues and get in touch with SWWB  for advice and support. They are keen to hear your feedback. 

Stand Together For The Liverpool Mental Health Consortium: Thurs 22nd June

Liverpool Mental Health Consortium is an organisation that was set up to promote mental health service user involvement in health and social care services on Merseyside. As well as giving voice to the perspectives of people with lived experience, LMHC has also recently led on an important project to document the negative impacts of austerity and welfare cuts on people experiencing mental distress in Liverpool:

Now LMHC itself is facing a complete cut in its funding from the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group. LMHC have requested support as they lobby the Health and Wellbeing board (a joint local authority/NHS meeting) against these funding cuts at 2pm on Thursday 22nd June. The meeting takes place at the Banquet Suite, 6th Floor, Cunard Building, Water St, Liverpool L3 1ES.

Please show your support by popping along, telling your local paper or radio station, and write to your local MP. 

Liverpool: ‘Cafe Psychologique’ Invites All To Monthly Event

Cafe Psychologique is a space to talk about life from a psychological perspective, with several Cafes running throughout the country.
There are some trained professionals at the Cafe but no lectures or seminars, instead ideas are dropped into the group to stimulate thought and discussion.
It’s a forum with an open invitation to everyone to come and give their thoughts on the topic being discussed.
It’s a relaxed informal atmosphere.

The next Cafe is Wednesday 31st May (6.30pm-8pm).

The title is “The hat or the heart: what does it mean to have a home?”
It will be exploring issues such as the changing concept of a home, homelessness, and how this affects people’s well-being.
However, the direction of conversation depends entirely on those attending.
The Brink, Liverpool.
Monthly on Wednesday at 6.30pm, £2 on the door (£5 with food provided – arrive at 6pm).
More information: or 0151 703 0582

The aim of the Cafe is to include as many perspectives as possible to promote rich discussion.

It would be fantastic if people came to share their views.

Second Annual Faith and Peaceful Relations Conference: Coventry 5th July

Last date for submission of abstracts: 22nd May 2017


Second Annual Faith and Peaceful Relations Conference

Faith in the Care System: Addressing the Diverse Needs of Children

5th July 2017, Jaguar Building, Coventry University

Co-hosted by the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR), Coventry University & CoramBAAF


In the context of Social Work, faith – both religious and non-religious – remains an under-researched and inadequately understood aspect of children’s identities. Children’s beliefs influence their care needs, aspirations, perceptions and connection to family and community life. Research evidence suggests that depending on a child’s particular circumstances, faith can either strengthen their sense of self-worth and resilience or it can inhibit it, reducing a child’s confidence in his or her decisions. In either case, faith can impact on a child’s ability to form positive realtionships with their carers. In order to improve outcomes for all children, it is imperative that researchers, social work professionals, carers and parents better understand the impact that faith can have on children’s lives and well-being. This conference will create a forum where exciting new research, current best practice and everyday lived experience of faith in the lives of looked-after children can be discussed and better understood.


The Faith and Peaceful Relations (FPR) Research Group at CTPSR explores the role religion can play in achieving peaceful and just societies. Faith can be a driver of social justice, yet it can also be a source of exclusion, misunderstanding and conflict. We are currently leading a project (funded by the charity Penny Appeal in collaboration with Coram-BAAF) to examine the experiences of Muslim children in the British care system. Following on the success of the first FPR conference on Islam and Peaceful relations we are excited to collaborate with CoramBAAF on the second FPR conference which will examine the impact of children’s diverse faith and belief positionalities on their journey’s through the British Care System.


This conference is an opportunity for academics, professionals and carers to come together to share expertise, experiences and good practice of caring for and addressing the needs of children from diverse religious and non-religious faiths. We invite proposals for papers, panel discussions, workshops, poster presentations and other contributions from academic scholars, social work and care professionals, adoptive and foster parents, legal experts, community activists and from those who experienced the care system. The conference will explore themes including:


Plenary Speaker: Dr John Simmonds OBE, Director of Policy, Research & Development, CoramBAAF

John is a qualified social worker and until his appointment at BAAF was the Programme Coordinator for social work programmes at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has been involved in consultancy and training for social workers and social work organisations throughout his career. He has published many articles and chapters in books and was the co-editor of ‘Direct Work with Children’ published by BAAF/Batsford in 1988. He is the adoptive father of two children.


Abstracts & Proposals

To submit a proposal:




Conference Organisers

Dr Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (, Mphatso Boti Phiri, Alison Halford Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR), Coventry University; and Savita de Souza ( CoramBAAF

Join DPAC: Wed 17th in Birmingham, for the End of May!

Disabled People Against Cuts West Midlands
Wednesday 17th 2017, 2pm – 6pm
Protest @ 2pm – Congregate lower end of Bull St, Birmingham B4 7AA
Rally @ 4pm – Waterstones Bookshop, 24 – 26 High St, B4 7S
The Days Ahead Look Grim:
Say No To Five More Years of Tory Death and Destruction!
Read the attachment….