Protect Palestinian Families. SWAN Statement on the £5m corporate donation of JCB to the NSPCC.

PLEASE CONSIDER SIGNING AND SHARING THE PETITION ATTACHED AT THE END OF THIS STATEMENT.

SWAN is extremely concerned that the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), a charity campaigning and working in child protection in the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands, receives donations from JC Bamford Excavators Ltd (JCB), despite these machines being used to demolish Palestinian homes. We do not accept that the charity can exonerate itself of all responsibility by claiming that this relates to the JCBs activities and not that of the NSPCC.

SWAN wishes to remind the NSPCC that Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory.”

JCB has been fully informed of the use of its equipment in ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights, yet continues to supply its Israeli partner, Comasco, with that equipment. Consequently, JCB may be aiding and abetting the commission by another person of a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In March 2016 the United National Human Rights Council adopted resolution 31/36 that called upon business enterprises in all states to take all measures necessary to comply with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The UN identified a number of business activities that raise particular human rights violations concerns. They include the supply of equipment and materials facilitating the construction and the expansion of settlements, and the supply of equipment for the demolition of housing and property and the destruction of agricultural farms, greenhouses, olives groves and crops

Subsequently, in 2020, the UN report A/HRC/43/71 named JCB as one of 112 business entities which the UN Human Rights Office considers in breach of international law.

JCB are currently the subject of a formal complaint by eminent lawyers (Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights) who cite JCB’s failures under OECD guidelines to apply due diligence within their human rights obligations.

Research by the Shoal Collective found that JCB’s products were used in 2018 in at least 130 demolitions, including the destruction of at least 2 schools and 31 homes. These demolitions displaced 163 people, including 31 children. They generally are used to carry out demolitions in vulnerable farming or Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley or the South Hebron Hills. The bulldozers were most often used to destroy people’s homes or animal structures, olive and fruit trees. They were also used to destroy wells, and community freshwater systems, cutting off villagers from water sources.  Reports complied in 2019 found that JCB machinery was involved in demolition of property that displaced 123 people and 39 children.  

SWAN recognises the excellent work NSPCC does and applauded the charity’s aim to “Give a voice to children when no one is listening” and to “fight for every childhood.”  But British children should not benefit at the expense of Palestinian children and their families. Nor

SWAN calls on the NSPCC to demonstrate a truly ethical position, cease to take money from JCB and should a charity accept money from a company complicit in war crimes.prove that every child matters.

PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE THIS PETITION. YOU MAY WISH TO WRITE TO THE NSPCC: Weston House, 42 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3NH.

Workers’ Experience Meeting – 23rd July

Book here for the second Workers’ Experience meeting for UK social work practitioners, a closed event accessible to those who have registered via eventbrite.

These meetings are safe spaces. We can only challenge the status quo, which forgets the centrality of social justice in social work and abandons the well-being of the workers, if we share our stories. Our website is currently hosting two stories that we recommend you read before joining the meeting. We would like to add more.


This meeting will not lead with speakers. We will devote as much time as possible to your voice, to hearing what practice during COVID has looked like, what you expected to happen and what you think will happen in the future. What has happened to our relationship with people receiving social care services or intervention? How have local authorities responded to legislation changes? What have you been asked to prioritise – what is your role during COVID?

Book here. You will receive log in details, including a password, for the meeting 24 hours before it starts.

Support for Imprisoned Hong Kong Social Worker

This is an appeal for Support for a Hong Kong Social Worker Sentenced to one-year Imprisonment in the Anti-extradition Bill Movement. 

A registered social worker from Hong Kong, Mr. Lau Ka-tung, has been convicted and sentenced to one-year imprisonment for committing an offence in the Anti-extradition Bill Movement on 17 June, 2020. The Magistrate agreed that Mr Lau had impeded police’s action of arresting protesters on 27 July, 2019 in Yuen Long. He also rejected Mr Lau’s application for temporary release, pending on his appeal against the sentence to the High Court. But as the defence lawyer asserted, Mr Lau has shown his social worker registration card and held up his hands without any physical resistance. He just functioned as a mediator to verbally remind the police of the possible casualties that might result from a stampede of the retreating protesters. However, he was injured and arrested. The conviction is a disastrous precedent for upcoming trials of other social workers who are arrested at similar scenarios.

According to the global definition and ethical principles of social work, one of the main duties of the profession is to stand for the rights, safety and interests of the clients while upholding human rights and social justice. The presence of social workers in the protest scenes and the related mediating and rescue work is not only legitimate, but also essential when the Anti-extradition Bill Movement in 2019 in Hong Kong became a fight for human rights, democracy and freedom. Unfortunately, more than 50 social workers were arrested for upholding human rights and safeguarding social justice, and some were charged for rioting. Mr LAU was the first, but will not be the last, social worker being criminalized while carrying out professional duties. 

We call for social workers and social work organizations in the international community to show their support and solidarity to Mr. LAU and to protect the basic values of the social work profession in one or all of the following ways:

1. Stage an open support for social workers’ presence in the frontline at the protest scenes to perform as mediators;
2. Declare a global solidarity against the arrest, ill treatment and criminal conviction of social workers when they implement their roles and duties in social movement to uphold human rights and safeguard social justice;
3. Call for the High Court appeal for the convicted case against any possible political prosecution of social workers. 

Yours sincerely, 

Reclaiming Social Work Movement 18 June, 2020
Contact Person: Dr. Leung Chi Yuen (sscyl@polyu.edu.hk)


Being a social worker during COVID…

…and where this sits in the broad context of Children and Families social work. Read this interview with a Children and Families practitioner, as they reflect upon how COVID has stressed the inadequacies of modern social work.

“I just don’t believe in what we are doing anymore.”

Working during COVID has highlighted a lot of issues in Children and Families social work for me. When you take away being able to sit with people in their homes and have open and empathic conversations, we are left with nothing to offer.

We all go into social work with – well it’s supposed to be about working with families, doing direct work and make a difference. Personally I wanted to do this job because I felt I had a lot of life experience. In the child protection teams, I wanted to be with people in crisis but I think quickly I have realised that the system doesn’t work.

  1. Because of this government (and we can’t get past the fact that things come from above), we are not funded enough and all of our preventive services have been stripped away. That directly impacts us because we go into families who are in crisis who could have avoided this is if they had preventative services earlier. I feel maybe like a hypocrite. I am going in representing a child protection system, perhaps in pre-proceedings, and our service doesn’t take into consideration or admit that if we had offered proper preventative services it would not have got to this stage.

“You need therapy but I can’t give it”. “Your child needs xyz but the services aren’t available so we ae gong to court to ask for a care order”. It doesn’t sit right. The higher above agenda is stat driven. It’s not about the families. If this was proper social work, as it’s meant to be, I could really do some good work here, I could go in and build relationships, give these kids time, do family work. But instead I get told to close them when they are at the Child In Need s17 threshold.

2. CIN cases are being forced closed by management too soon, due to COVID pressures. Objectively I get that these cases aren’t always about safeguarding against immediate and significant harm, they are more about giving support – we aren’t allowed to do it. I have families asking us NOT to leave or close the case because our presence is working. The kids don’t want to be left without anyone. Mums say “you all leave me, when you are there you help – then you leave, it goes down and I come back in a worse place in the system”.

If it’s not Child Protection s47 then you have to close it. COVID has cranked up the pressure on our service and therefore on CIN cases. What’s the point of CIN if they get closed instantly? It’s there in law! Why are we ignoring them? We are being pushed to close all CIN cases. Where is the value of S17 of the Children’s Act? We are misleading families about the levels of involvement and engagement when we force workers to close CIN cases during times of pressure like this.  I’m so conflicted. Half of me says we should not be involved unless absolutely necessary because the system is so bad. So destructive. We infringe on their rights. The other half wants to do the proper work, to get in early. Social care shouldn’t be about removing children.  We moan about the media portrayal of social work but can you blame them? We have created this monster.

3. The risk aversion in management is paralysing. I have been led to believe I can make a difference in cases where then I have found out my manager has made decisions with legal without my knowledge. When I challenge this I am told “You have become too emotionally connected to the family”. They are trying to gaslight me into thinking I was not making a sensible assessment. Why is emotional attachment being trained out of us? Our social work values are meant to play a part. Yet being robotic is the only way apparently to make a decision. It’s not all meant to be on data, it’s meant to be a consideration on how the child will emotionally react.

4. There is no guidance to making major decisions like this during COVID. Mothers are asking to have contact in the park etc with their children now that lockdown has been eased. We are saying no. There is NO WRITTEN GUIDANCE. Why have SWE not sent any guidance out? Why has the LA not issued any guidance in writing? Why have we had no email explaining how to work during COVID? Why is there no centralised file with COVID guidance accessible by all? Where are the copies of the risk assessments? This is not a mistake – this is deliberate. It’s suspicious that we are told to visit within houses verbally only, no paper trail. If someone tries to sue the LA because we have spread COVID, there is no paper trail to show we were told to go in to houses. We will be blamed for making personal decisions on a case by case basis. This is not an accidental situation. And that is the worst thing for me. 

5. The Court system under COVID is problematic. It is a doable system but not a fair system. From a worker’s perspective, court is horrendous anyway. Especially when giving evidence. Everybody’s emotions are high. At least when you are physically there you can leave it behind in a different building – it isn’t actually taking place in your home! I can’t process that I had 4 court hearings last week and all that happened with me in my house. I have been cross examined and heard these stories whilst I’ve been sitting at home. I can’t escape it. There is no office environment for a debrief. I also have to look after my own child straight after these court sessions. It’s impossible to switch off. This is not my safe space at the moment.  The pressure of trying to juggle being a parent, working during lockdown, and trying to manage safety around visiting families during a pandemic has been minimised and dismissed by judges. Legal teams have told us not to raise any of this for consideration when court mandated plans are created. Are we working with reality or fantasy?

Alongside this, I cant speak to legal to take advice during the hearing, there are no sidebar moments where we are waiting outside the room, talking through what to say next. It helps to process things. Nothing can ever replace face to face conversation in that kind of serious situation. We mustn’t pretend it’s a suitable replacement. In one case, from the mum’s point of view, she wanted to speak to us face to face: she wanted to explain herself and give evidence looking at people. They denied her the chance to do it over a video call. They said no, that the technology was not set up for that. For her that was a big thing. And she has to do all of this from home and it’s really not a safe space for her.

6. Key resources have shut down during COVID such as psychological assessments that feed into our court planning. So we are having to decide whether we are going from pre-proceedings to court without the essential assessments. They are normally independent social workers who now don’t have to work. Is this a breach of rights? No-one knows how to handle this situation, fair enough. But everyone looks to social work to keep going regardless. But we can’t do this alone and we need other services to get involved. We need early help and youth workers to keep engagement, we need psych assessments and cognitive assessments to happen fairly.  We aren’t trained to deliver domestic violence work with perpetrators etc. but we are expected to by court and management. It’s a false sense of security during this pandemic. Because SW doesn’t offer solutions anymore, only monitoring, what we do becomes hugely oppressive when the external resources back off. If we don’t put the resources in place and then the court feel we have not evidenced that its safe enough for children to go home to their families, then we are responsible for tearing children out of their homes.

What should happen after COVID goes away? What will we learn and where should we be going in the future?

As a public service we should be treated as importantly as the NHS regarding policy and guidance. We are being forced to do things beyond good guidance.

The system is so broken that I am not sure what is saveable. The entire system needs an overhaul and we need a new government to even stand a chance. We are not funded, we are scapegoated as a service that should do everything. Are we being represented enough as a public service by the Labour party?

We need grassroots social work, properly funded. We need space to talk about structural oppression alongside trauma rather than just look at thresholds.

Summary of the first Workers’ Experience Meeting: 7-5-20.

You may have noticed that SWAN is using a variety of formats to debate government policies and the role of social work during the current pandemic. Thursday evenings have seen us co-host several huge international webinars with the IFSW, as well as national meetings that address the UK context. SWAN International (SWAN i) has grown exponentially as we connect with workers from South Africa, Hong Kong, Thailand and Greece to name but a few. The calendar is looking busy for months to come, as the appetite for transparency, critical debate and change grows further.

On the 7th May 2020, SWAN hosted a closed meeting for UK social workers that was designed to be a safe space for sharing the reality of what frontline practice is looking like during the COVID pandemic. SWAN recognised that detailed stories of experience are essential for understanding how our government is using the social work profession to deliver its ideological goals during this time of fear and change. We also recognise that practitioners often feel very wary of sharing their worries about what they are being asked to do or criticising their employer. Creating a safe space was crucial. We are very grateful that people trusted our forum to share perspectives, and much came from it.

Our focus was to explore experience, perhaps identify themes, and consider next steps. Immediately we all identified a desire for more meetings in a similar vein. Therefore we are going to be back on the 11th June, details to follow.

Some personal experiences were hard to hear. One worker spoke of entire teams having to reapply for their own jobs, as their employer took advantage of the union stepping back from a walk-out during the pandemic. Another shared that community groups and schools have led the way in easing the impact that COVID has had upon families already managing poverty, with their employer simply trailing in their wake, signposting families.

People talked of the way that families without a laptop or internet access simply can’t get the services they are entitled to. Those using services and reliant upon the welfare state have not been able to stockpile food; those with really complex needs such as drug users are being left behind as services withdraw. Redeployment of social workers may be a common consideration across local authorities but there are worrying stories of wholly inappropriate placements.

Several workers shared feelings of guilt as people feel forced to choose between their own safety and the needs of the people they are trying to support. Many stories highlighted that managers do not know how to respond to this crisis, are paranoid about serious case reviews highlighting failings, and are increasing control and reducing dialogue with workers as a result. Alongside this, the government clearly is using this period of shock to force its own agenda of privatisation and reducing regulation.

Throughout all of this, we remembered the workers who have died of COVID-19.

During discussion, themes emerged around the disconnect between social workers across the UK:

  • Expectations of working conditions and our role are varying wildly from local authority to local authority, which is keeping us from coming together with one voice to protest. If we do not know what is happening a few miles away, how much harder it becomes to recognise that our own situation is not ok. There is no consistency of experience – its each local authority for themselves. Survival of the fittest.
  • Our government will change legislation without consultation and will demand that we as social workers deliver their agenda. What are the main social work bodies doing to challenge the terrifying deregulation of social work services?
  • There is a burning desire for better amongst workers. This does not simply mean better working conditions; this means better service for the families we are trying to support. If we can suddenly house those living on the streets and eradicate rough sleeping, then long term change really is possible. Flexible and responsive community-based action is saving lives and that’s where the future of social work needs to lie, if it is to offer anything beyond monitoring and the gatekeeping of limited resources. We want a new normal.
  • There is a huge groundswell in political activism amongst many who were never agitated before.  Senior figures in the medical and care profession are outspoken in their criticism of the government. There is a new public concept of what a skilled and essential worker is; of the role of migrant workers; of the importance of renationalised care services. SWAN must continue to build alliances and ensure social workers can get involved in political action.

These themes are informing a set of demands that we hope to pull together, potentially after the next Workers’ Experience meeting.  Please consider joining this safe forum and telling us what working life is like for you, and the people you are working to support. Alternatively, email us your story at swansocialwork@gmail.com.

BASW CONSULT ON ADULT SOCIAL CARE PRACTICE

Request to help bring about radical change in social care

BASW is consulting on a proposal that would bring about fundamental and radical change in adult social care.  They are proposing a new 4 step approach to the way needs are assessed and resources allocated.  

The model separates decisions about need and decisions about budgets. Assessment of need and the resources required would be a matter between the practitioner and service user. The decision about how much could be afforded would be a subsequent and transparent management responsibility.

This would bring an end to the need for managerial control over a social worker’s practice, in order to control spending. It will also, for the first time, expose the real funding gap that exists in adult social care, and therefore expose political leaders to their responsibility for closing it. Read an article in Community Care reporting on the proposal here.

SWAN is urging members to engage in the consultation. Whether BASW follows through on this radicalism and proceed to seriously lobby for change may depend on the strength of response to the consultation. It will require about 15 minutes of your time to read the consultation document, and then another 15 minutes to complete the on-line survey. Click here for the link that will take you to both.

SWAN Members Present All Over The UK in Climate Protests

Friday’s global gatherings appear to have amounted to the largest movement in history of people protesting about a single issue. Millions of people, in thousands of protests, across hundreds of countries, turned out to shout about the destruction of our living world and it’s connections to migration, poverty, war and capitalism.

Aberdeen and Glasgow saw large marches with a strong Swan presence…

The UCU branch present at Liverpool Hope Uni organised their own solidarity event that saw hundreds of staff walk out of work to protest lack of action on the climate crisis.

In Wigan, steering committee member Malcolm spoke at a public event, demanding system change – not climate change, on behalf of SWAN.

SWAN members were also present in London and Leciestershire. If you have an event report that you would like to share, contact us at swansocialwork@gmail.com.

SWAN joins the Global Climate Strikes – digitally and in person!

SWAN members are joining the Global Climate strikes in towns and cities around the world. Our website will be shut down tomorrow, to join the digital strike, but we already know that there are SWAN members joining the movement in:

  • Kelvingrove Park, Kelvin Way in Glasgow. Assembling 11am.
  • Liverpool Hope Uni, Taggart Avenue at 1pm
  • Merseyside Social Work Partnership Conference, Lace Centre, Sefton Park at 12:30pm
  • Liverpool’s main event – 12pm in the city centre’s St George’s Square
  • Wigan at 12:30pm
  • Salford social work staff are being supported by Unison to walk out at lunch time, and to join national protests.
  • Market Harborough, Leicestershire from 12pm with local activists and primary schools coming together.
  • London’s main events.

PLEASE send us your reports of action throughout the day. Any photos or written accounts can be organised and shared on our website.

The Accidental Campaigner

The Accidental Campaigner

James Corbett is an English teacher. He’s quite ordinary really. And yet here he is, on day 37 of a 46 day walk from Glasgow to London, collecting signatures for his petition to save the core of the NHS.

“I didn’t know or understand about the changes to the 2012 Health and Social Care Act until quite recently. It removes the legal responsibility of the sec of state for the diagnosis, treatment, and care of UK citizens. That means that it’s not the govt’s duty anymore to protect our health.  It opens the door to private companies to come and make money from us when we are suffering. They’re concerned about their shareholders rather than the patients. This major change wasn’t included in the Tory party manifesto of 2010. The social care bill had already been drafted – this omission was snide. It feels like a sly move. This made me realise that I was going to walk, I was going to get on my feet.

“One of the reasons I started from Glasgow is because my good friend Donny (from Glasgow) – his wife has cancer. She’s very, very ill. She’s suffering. My neighbour’s son has cerebal palsy. One of my closest friends spent 4 months in hospital. And what unites them all is that they didn’t have to worry about the financial implications of their treatment. An Americanised health care system would have financially crushed them. With Donald Trump discussing the NHS as part of a trade deal, are the vultures circling?”

I’ve seen passionate people standing outside Chorley Hospital for years, campaigning for a 24 hours A+E. What I am doing in comparison is nothing. I was inspired by the Chartists, by the Jarrow marchers. The 7 point Charter got rejected twice – but here we are in 2019 with 6 of the 7 points now in effect. I am simply a delivery boy for the petition, I am carrying a message. I couldn’t have got this far without the overwhelming support of all the people out there whom I have met and spoken to who really care about the NHS. The NHS actually really unites us all, no matter our political persuasion; UK citizens are really passionate about the NHS and what it stands for.”

Swan supports James in his passionate plea to protect our health and social care system from massive structural damage. Stand in solidarity with James by signing his petition and adding your voice: https://www.change.org/p/every-leader-of-every-party-in-parliament-save-the-nhs-march-to-parliament-free-health-care-for-all?recruited_by_id=d65c9fb0-d8c9-11e7-8722-39b60f9673c6

ADDACTION workers strike in Wigan

Substance misuse workers employed by the charity Addaction struck last week, after management refused to honour a two percent pay rise following the NHS Agenda for Change pay rate increase. This had been promised after former NHS workers were TUPED over to the charity. There had been last minute talks at ACAS earlier – negotiations that had been unable to resolve the dispute.

There were lively pickets outside Addaction’s offices in Leigh and Wigan. The strike was well supported by  Wigan Trade Council, and there were banners from the local RMT branch, Salford Unison and others.

One worker who wished to remain anonymous said “We  love our work and make a crucial contribution to the care of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. In desperation, we are taking strike action to fight for the pay we were promised for the vital work we perform.”

Another worker said “We were promised and reassured that there would be no changes in our conditions of service. Everything would remain the same, we were assured, and we would receive our rise like the rest of the NHS workforce. After ten years of austerity a two percent rise will not restore our levels of pay. We must fight this, because if we don’t the management will see this as a weakness and they will come for our holidays and pensions like the rest of the public sector. We must use every method to win including the legal path and more strikes if necessary.”

Another worker said “this is a charity and it certainly doesn’t begin at home – except paying very high salaries to those at the top”.

Management have finally agreed to talks this week .