Social Work Action Network-International (SWAN-I):
Statement on the Invasion and War in Ukraine
Please find below a statement agreed by SWAN-I in relation to the war in Ukraine.
- As an international social work organisation, the Social Work Action Network- International (SWAN-I) stands in full solidarity with the ordinary men, women and children of Ukraine, currently experiencing the destruction of their homes and towns and growing loss of life.
- We oppose and condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We call for an immediate ceasefire and for all Russian armed forces to immediately withdraw from Ukraine.
- We stand in solidarity with those in Russia who have protested against the invasion, despite police repression. We support the building of a mass anti-war movement, including among Russian troops.
- The war is a hugely dangerous development. There is a risk that the conflict may spread and escalate, drawing other countries into a growing international conflict and, in a worst case scenario, leading to the deployment of chemical or even nuclear weapons.
- This war is also a proxy conflict between Russia and NATO prompted by NATO expansion into central and Eastern Europe. We oppose this expansion and any intervention in this conflict by NATO forces. We do not see NATO or its main backer, the United States, whose invasions and wars have created carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, as a force for peace and security in the world.
- The war is creating the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two with millions of people being forced to flee Ukraine. We should welcome them and demand that our governments lift bureaucratic entry conditions, including the waiving of visa requirements. That same welcome, however, should also be extended to those fleeing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, the Yemen and elsewhere. The ‘correct’ ethnicity or skin colour should not be the criterion for a humanitarian response to those fleeing war, poverty and persecution. We deplore the reports of racism and discrimination being directed against Africans resident in Ukraine at the border as they were attempting to flee the war.
- Finally, we extend solidarity to our social work colleagues in both Ukraine and Russia. We are conscious of the efforts at the present time of colleagues in countries bordering Ukraine to provide practical humanitarian support to those fleeing the war and we applaud these. Social workers and their organisations in other countries also need to discuss as a matter of urgency ways in which they can use their knowledge, skills and professional experience to support refugees both from Ukraine and from other parts of the world. But we need to go further. There is a proud tradition within the social work profession of opposing war and the destruction which it brings. We need to continue, and build on, that tradition.
- Firstly, that means opposing attempts by governments, whether in Russia or in the West, to use the war to restrict freedom of speech and of the press for those who oppose the war. Secondly, we should oppose all attempts to make working-class people pay the costs of war, whether through increased prices or through cuts to health and social care services. Finally, we should oppose any escalation of the war by arguing for our trade union and professional social work organisations to take a clear stand against any such escalation which can only lead to more death and destruction and also to participate in wider anti-war movements which can unite working people in Ukraine, Russia and the West. In the words of leading American social worker Lillian Wald in a speech in 1914 on the eve of the First World War:
In its broadest conception, social work is teaching the sanctity of human life..and the doctrine of the brotherhood of man…The social workers of our time are dreaming a great dream, and seeing a great vision of democracy, of a real brotherhood among men…War is the doom of all that has taken years to build up.
DATE FOR THE DIARY: 28th October 2021 , 7pm – 9pm
On the 22nd of May 2021 at the AGM Reclaim Social Care the campaign organisation adopted a new vision and strategy alongside voting to change its name to Act 4 Inclusion. We wish to invite you and anyone you know who is interested in addressing the current crisis within Social Care along to our official launch.
Act 4 Inclusion wants to see the development of a new national service framed by a community based eco–social system which needs to work for all disabled people, of all ages, with all types of impairment, and for everyone in society. A community based eco–social system would take an intersectional approach towards policy making, considering the differential impact of universal and targeted policies across the diversity of disabled people and other service users.
Using a community based eco-social approach for understanding the basic relationships between service users and their environments moves away from traditional need-led assessment procedures towards addressing how to create inclusive participation in both local communities and wider society. Effective inclusive participation enables individuals and communities to work together to build capacity in shaping and engaging in decision-making processes through coproduction and the development of confidence, skills, knowledge and experience.
Alongside our new Vision we have a fresh Strategy involving:
· Strengthening the resistance to cuts
· Safeguarding and deinstitutionalisation
· Campaigning, development, and promotion
· Using a community based eco-social approach
Our launch will hear from invited international and national speakers from campaign bodies Act 4 Inclusion hopes to work alongside in the future. We will also reveal our new logo.
The launch will be by Zoom. Please register to ensure you receive the link to join.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
If you have any access requirements, please email email@example.com by 14th October 2021 to discuss.
If you are not already a member or delegate from an affiliated organisation details of how you can join are on our website www.act4inclusion.org Follow us on Facebook Act 4 Inclusion – choice, control and independence | Facebook and Twitter @act_inclusion
PLEASE READ AND SHARE THIS SOCIAL WORK RESPONSE TO THE INHUMANE ASYLUM SYSTEM DELIVERED BY OUR GOVERNMENT. THANKS TO SWWB FOR LEADING ON THIS.
31st August 2021
Dear Priti Patel MP (Secretary of State for the Home Department),
Sajid Javid MP (Secretary of State for Health and Social Care),
Gavin Williamson MP (Secretary of State for Education),
Vicky Ford MP (Minister for Children and Families),
Robert Jenrick MP (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government),
Dominic Raab MP (Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and
First Secretary of State),
Social work response to the Government’s treatment of Afghan asylum-seekers.
We feel compelled to raise a social work response to what we see as a crisis of leadership from
our Government in response to the situation in Afghanistan. The Government is offering to resettle
5000 people this year and a further 15,000 over the next 5 years and is calling this scheme
“generous” and “compassionate”. We refute the Government’s claim to be acting with generosity
and compassion, and ask the Government to do more, much more. After 20 years of military
action in Afghanistan it is not a case of being “generous” it is about taking responsibility for the
role the British Government has played in the war and Afghan society, and it is our duty not to
The current crisis has exposed the inhumanity and unworkability of the Nationality and Borders Bill
that is currently being rushed through parliament. The Bill would mean that anyone who arrives in
the UK via an unofficial route would be considered to have entered the UK illegally and would
subsequently be denied the same rights as a person who arrives in the UK via a state-sanctioned
resettlement programme. These criminalised, ‘second-class’ refugees would not have the same
family reunification rights, they would have limited access to public services and would never be
granted permanent settled status. Given the fact that the best the Government is claiming they can
do for the Afghan people, is offer to resettle 5000 people in 1 year, then what hope is left for those
who are unable to access these resettlement schemes but to try and make their own way to
safety? And for this, those who arrive in the UK, would be criminalised. That is nothing short of
cruel and inhumane.
Last year the Government was advised by civil servants that there is an inadequate supply of
suitable accommodation for asylum-seekers and that the way to solve this problem is to mandate
Local Authorities to make provision for this type of accommodation.2 The Government did not act
on this recommendation and instead continued to place people in unsuitable hotel and army
barrack accommodation. This type of accommodation places asylum-seekers in unsuitable, dirty,
overcrowded, isolated living conditions, and costs the tax-payer more!
In August 2020 and again in June 2021 Kent Children’s Services stopped accepting
unaccompanied children into their care. With other Local Authorities taking similar action or
currently on the verge of it. This has resulted in unaccompanied children being denied their legal
entitlement to care as set out in the Children Act 1989. Instead they have been detained or
accommodated in inadequate and unsafe conditions, as evidenced in the Kent Intake Unit
inspectorate report from October 20205, and by the fact that the Home Office is currently acting as
the corporate parent for a cohort of unaccompanied children, and sees fit to place these children in
hotels without meeting their most basic welfare and safeguarding needs.
Currently there appears to be a breakdown in the ability of central government and local
government to work together and ensure that the needs of asylum-seekers and refugees are being
met. This is resulting in a crisis of care. The consequences of this crisis are all too apparent in the
tragic death of a five year old boy, Mohammed Munib Majeedi, who died after falling from a
window of a hotel that was not fit for purpose. The Government must act now to ensure that there
are no further tragedies and that lives are not knowingly placed at risk. The negligence must stop.
We call on the Government to comply with the demands set out by the Joint Council for the
Welfare of Immigrants, which seek to improve the Government’s response to Afghans and
address some of our concerns about the Nationality and Borders Bill:
• Abandon the ‘resettlement-only’ plans set out in the Nationality and Borders Bill, that
would criminalise or deny full refugee status to those who make their own journeys to seek
asylum in the UK
• Grant immediate asylum to Afghans already waiting for status in the UK
• Release all Afghan nationals from detention
• Expand the family reunion route so that Afghans can be joined by other members of their
family, such as parents and siblings
• Join the international effort to evacuate and resettle Afghan nationals
We make further demands on behalf of the social work profession:
• We ask that central Government and local governments show leadership and
integrity in our response to asylum-seekers and refugees. As social workers, we
demand that we are supported to carry-out our legal duties, as enshrined in the
Children Acts 1989 and 2004, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989.
• Local Authorities must be obliged and enabled to provide good quality support and
services to unaccompanied children, children in families and adult asylum-seekers.
This includes the provision of adequate accommodation and access to social care.
Naomi Jackson, Development Lead, Social Workers Without Borders
Ruth Allen, CEO, British Association of Social Workers
John McGowan, General Secretary, Social Workers Union
Rory Anderson, National Convenor, Social Work Action Network
Robin Sen, lecturer in social worker and steering group member for CRWA, and Alissa, social worker and steering group member for both SWAN and CRWA, discuss what is said – and more importantly what is NOT said – in the Case For Change. We don’t all have time to scour these large documents. Let Alissa and Robin do it for you!
The Care Review Watch Alliance (CRWA) is a loose collective of care experienced people, care professionals and academics. We come from all corners of the community, including social workers, providers and care experienced folk. We all have concerns about how the current ‘once in a generation’ Care Review is being undertaken. This submission reflects a collective view of the Case for Change (CfC).
It is with great regret that we approach this response having to recognise the politically contrived nature of the design and promotion of the MacAlister Care Review. The fact we have a CfC proposed and costings submitted for the spending review only 3 months into the process is incredulous. This timescale meets a Tory Government deadline for the Review to complete in a year. The timescale has been set to take advantage of the government’s current Parliamentary majority with a view to implementing legislative change, regardless of Parliamentary opposition. This timetable therefore reflects the political needs of the ruling Tory government, rather than being grounded in a desire to undertake a thorough review, or to seek consensus across the political and children’s social care spectrum as to how to better meet the needs of children and families. Mr MacAlister presents the public with a narrative about investment and the need for children to have lifelong relationships which provide love, care and security. However, he has failed to challenge the government’s decision to deny the right to care to young people in care who are over the age of 15. Concerns are such that Article 39, a small children’s rights charity has had to launch legal action to try to ensure 16 and 17 year olds are not denied care.
That the CfC’s arguments are often poorly evidenced is a matter of deep concern. As an alliance we focus our response here on three broad but interrelated issues: statutory provision; children’s rights and the regulatory framework for children’s services; and the role of austerity and poverty.
A lack of understanding of statutory provision for families
The CfC framing of ‘statutory’ and ‘non-statutory’ provision wrongly suggests that family support services are provided on a non-statutory basis. This is a stark omission on the part of the CfC which is a deep source of concern. It is unclear if the omission is intended or if Mr MacAlister and his DfE approved team simply fail to understand current legislation. Either way raises questions of concern:
- Why does this Review not include a fundamental endorsement of our substantive piece of legislation, the Children Act 1989?
- How will support for families be comprehensively considered by the Review if the true range of current statutory provision is omitted from its discussion by definition?
Mr MacAlister has made clear he wants to reframe ‘early help’ to ‘family help’ and the CfC asserts a need to define what ‘family help’ is. We direct Mr MacAlister to the Children Act 1989: Schedule 2 details the provision of services for families. Additionally, Mr MacAlister and the DfE might need to be reminded that Section 17 of the 1989 Act is ‘statutory’ as it places an accountable duty on Local Authorities to provide family support services, as needed, both for children who may be suffering significant harm or impairment (Section 17. (10, b) and Section 47) and for those who need additional (social work-led) services to provide them with ‘the opportunity of achieving or maintaining a reasonable standard of health or development’ (Section 17 (10 (a)).
As Emeritus Professor June Thoburn writes in respect of the Children Act, 1989:
The intention of the originators of the legislation (fully discussed with ministers and in Parliamentary debates on the that Bill) is clearly stated: ‘It would not be acceptable for an authority to exclude any of these three [those children in need of additional services; those in need of protection; and disabled children, as defined in Section 17]….by confining services to children at risk of significant harm’ (The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2 1991 para 2.4). Mechanistic ‘thresholds’ and ‘step up’ ‘step down’ processes that result in local authorities making de-facto decisions to restrict and ration services are contrary to the intention of the Act and are the result, as Directors of Children’s Services over the years have made clear, of the need to ‘ration’ services in response to inadequate funding.
Children’s rights and the regulatory framework
The CfC overlooks the existence of children’s and families’ rights to expect their Local Authorities to provide them with services, when they are in need. However, on page 81 the CfC reports “What is needed is a coherent regulatory landscape and rulebook which is grounded in the needs – and indeed rights – of children and families…..”. There is already a regulatory landscape, as we have described above. Notably, the CfC does not explain what its proposed ‘rulebook’ is, and this is its only mention in the report. However, the CfC does run on its above sentence by adding an ideological claim: “…and combines greater levels of both freedom and responsibility for professionals in children’s social care.”
There is an inherent tension, and a complex relationship, between freedom and rights (Demenchonok, 2009; Huntington & Scott, 2020; Marshall, 2009) and the way in which the (un)regulated provision of childcare constructs and harbours multiple vulnerabilities (Goodall et al., 2021). This complexity is not interrogated within the CfC. Instead, the CfC makes seven references to the word freedom – and concludes with the question – “How can monitoring and inspection make the most difference to children’s and families’ experiences and engender greater freedom and responsibility in the workforce?” (CfC, p.82). There are further references to workers’ freedoms on page 77 and a reliance on Whittaker & Harvard (2016) regarding the concept of defensive social work practice, to sculpt the CfC narrative. Without critical analysis the CfC focuses on developing a narrative that regulation limits the application of professional judgement and fails, for example, to empower the voice of the child. The view consistently visible within the CfC is that government oversight is limiting and oppressive, rather than facilitating social workers to support and safeguard.
We query this reading of the operation of the current regulatory framework. Children who are in the care of their local authority should have a right to receive care, although numerous examples of the state failing to address the needs and rights of children are in evidence (Limb, 2015; Ritchie, 2000). Indeed the CfC reports in respect of that currently unregulated accommodation that: “…. there will no longer be unregulated accommodation and so that the quality can improve.” (p.63), thereby suggesting an awareness that greater regulation is sometimes needed to ensure the rights of children and young people are met. However, it then goes on to support the new government legislation omitting the right to care for 16 and 17 year old young people who are in state care, from September 2021. This failure is entirely inconsistent with the CfC’s claims elsewhere that the state is not a ‘pushy enough parent’. If the care received by children is not consistently at the heart of the CfC, it is difficult to perceive the Review as a means by which the rights of children, and their best interests, will be promoted.
The UK record on children’s rights has been a concern for some time. Haydon and Scraton (2009) interrogated these concerns, which will arguably have worsened following the effects of a decade of austerity. In an attempt to start addressing these concerns, it is notable that the Scottish Government has introduced legislation to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law, and have also banned the smacking of children. Meanwhile, the UK Government has failed to follow suit in respect of England. This is particularly true for asylum seeking and migrant children and young people who are over represented in the unregulated sector and frequently subjected to years of uncertainty over their immigration status. In 2011 Sellick explored the UK expansion into private provision of foster care despite an absence of research upon which to base this significant policy shift and the lack of regard given to the lessons which could be seen from the privatisation of adult social care a decade earlier (Scourfield, 2007). Sellick (2011) asserts state policies are developed on an unevidenced belief which does not stand up to research scrutiny. There is no good outcome for our children when the greed of those who seek profit and power takes precedence over the needs of children.
System factors: the role of austerity and poverty
The CfC is silent on the 30 per cent austerity cuts to Local Authority funding the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition put forward in 2010, alongside savage welfare retrenchment (Churchill, 2013). It is due to reductions in children’s service spending at the start of the last decade that overall spending has still not recovered to 2010 levels, despite increases in spending in more recent years (Webb and Bywaters, 2018; Williams and Franklin, 2021). The lower levels of spending are despite the growing population of children and young people in England during the last decade. This means that the per child/young person spend has decreased by even more since 2010, and spending per child/young person has decreased the most in the most deprived Local Authorities (Webb and Bywaters, 2018; Williams and Franklin, 2021.) Government policies since 2010 have also contributed to rising numbers of people in England who are in ‘deep poverty’, according to the Social Metrics Commission’s measure, and increases in the numbers of children and families who are living in poverty (Webb and Bywaters, 2018; JRF, 2021). The CfC itself recognises there is a clear relationship between increased poverty and the likelihood of children entering care yet, despite this, the Review Chair has appeared to want to attribute the rise in care numbers to the individual practices of social workers being ‘too quick to wade in’ (Duggan, 2021).
The CfC fails to make a single reference to ‘austerity’ in its 80 plus pages. This is not an accidental omission. The CfC bases its spending comparisons on the baseline year of 2012, and therefore presents a narrative that overall spending has gone up, but been reapportioned away from ‘early help’ (which includes various types of family support, youth services and family centres) to ’higher level’ support (which principally consists of child and family social work support, child protection work and spending related to children in care). Choosing 2012 as the baseline comparison year masks the overall reductions in spending on children’s services there have been since 2010 (Webb and Bywaters, 2018). And, by omitting any reference to austerity, the CfC avoids making any criticism of previous Tory administrations, thereby avoiding consideration of the devastating impacts of Tory austerity policies on poorer families and children’s services provision since 2010.
The CfC’s narrative regarding rising care numbers and child protection numbers seems to be that children’s services somehow became more risk averse, and interventionist, after 2010. In turn, it is argued, this led to more children being placed in care, which meant Local Authorities had to reapportion spending towards higher level support away from early help.
While we would agree that the current system is insufficiently supportive of families, the CfC is here only narrating half the story. The unprecedented 30 per cent central Government cuts to Local Authorities in 2010 were part of an ideologically driven and economically unnecessary austerity drive, led by the Tory party. In this context of savage cuts to their budgets, combined with increased demands on Local Authority services, managers were forced to make hard decisions about what to cut the most, and what to cut the least. In children’s services, they understandably tried to protect ‘higher level’ support but were only able to do so at the expense of ‘early help’ services. According to one estimate early help and youth services have been cut in half from 2010 – 19 (Williams and Franklin, 2021), and other estimates have placed this reduction as being even greater if measured from 2010 to 2016/17 (Kelly, Lee, Sibieta, & Waters, 2018). However, diverting funding away from ‘early help’ resulted in increases in the numbers of children coming into care, leading to greater financial difficulties for Local Authorities given placing a child in care is, by some margin, the most expensive measure within children’s services spending. Substantive parts of the increase in care numbers and child protection numbers are then clearly explicable by the greater poverty families are living in, alongside the decimation of ‘early help’ support. Both of these are the result of Tory Governments’ policies. What is more, if child and family social work practice did become more risk averse during the previous decade, as the CfC suggests, then this must be placed in the context of a lack of resources available with which to support families, alongside starkly uncompromising child protectionist discourse from key players like Michael Gove and Sir Martin Narey.
The current shortcomings in children’s services cannot be understood without placing them in the context of Tory Government policies over the previous decade. Instead of doing so, the Review Chair has sought to attribute responsibility for the consequences of these policy decisions to social workers, social work leaders and local government.
In order that this Review can become what those using the children’s social care system, and those working within it, wish for it to be, we make the following calls based on the CfC itself, and the conduct of the Review to date.
- We reiterate our demand for a review that is truly independent of government, and for the replacement of the current chair with a suitably qualified and independent chair.
- In terms of process, the lived experience of children and families should be placed at the centre of the Care Review process, facilitating genuine consultation with, and participation of, experts by experience, including faithful representation of viewpoints which do not align with the Review chair’s own. A model of genuine co-production should be used, building on the Care Experienced Conference and its findings and recommendations.
- The Care Review should also seek to genuinely involve social workers, the largest professional group working within the children’s social care system in England, including faithful representation of viewpoints which do not align with the Review chair’s own.
- The Review needs to accurately describe, and recognise, the full range of statutory provision within children’s services, demonstrating an understanding that ‘early help’ services are statutory provision. The Review needs to recognise that this range of statutory provision is part of a continuum of support within children’s services and that its recommendations should not seek to open it up to separation, siloing or privatisation.
- Children’s rights should be central to the Review and the Review should not make recommendations which undermine children’s rights, including the rights of migrant and asylum seeking and refugee children and young people and teenagers in the care and care leaving system, treating all equally, regardless of immigration status. The Review should call for the full incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into English law.
- We call on the Review to reverse its support for Government legislation which will remove the right of care for those young people in care who are 16 and 17: in doing so, the Review will be recognising that the Government’s current proposals are a betrayal of the state’s responsibilities to young people in state care.
- The Review should place any analysis of the children’s social care system within the context of Tory austerity cuts since 2010, and the rising levels of poverty over the last decade. It should acknowledge that children’s social care spending in 2019 was still behind 2010 levels, and that central government funding to Local Authorities is drastically insufficient to meet core service requirements, let alone develop services creatively. The Review should not seek to blame practice, practitioners or Local Authorities for these systemic policy failures, and it should recognise current strengths in social work practice.
- The Review should use its position to call on the government to reverse rising levels of child and family poverty in England. The Review should demand that the Government fully reverse funding cuts to children’s services per child/young person, taking account of the growing child population since 2010.
- The Review should also demand the power to include recommendations for new investment in children’s services, without the need to counterbalance any such investment plan with promises of future cost savings in children’s services: our children’s futures are not a balance sheet.
- Finally, we call on the Care Review to make a clear and unequivocal recommendation that the privatisation of adoption, fostering and residential child care services be reversed, independently of any report from the Competition and Markets Authority. This is a matter of core principle and the Review should commit to a vision of children’s social care as a public service with a not-for-profit ethos, informed by values of user participation and democratic accountability.
Care Review Watch Alliance Steering Group,
Churchill, H. (2013) Retrenchment and restructuring: family support and children’s services reform under the coalition. Journal of Children’s Services, 8 (3), 209–22. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-05-2013-0020
Demenchonok, E. (2009). The Universal Concept of Human Rights as a Regulative Principle: Freedom Versus Paternalism. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 68(1), 273–301. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1536-7150.2008.00624.x
Duggan, E. (2021) ‘Social workers too quick to wade in, review finds. A ‘runaway train’ of child protection investigations damages families and risks putting the young in even greater danger’, Sunday Times, June 13, 2021. Available: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/social-workers-too-quick-to-wade-in-review-finds-qtd0763wd
Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) (2021) UK Poverty, The leading independent report. Available: https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2020-21
Kelly, E., Lee, T., Sibieta, L. and Waters T. (2018) Public spending on children in England: 2000 to 2020, Institute for Fiscal Studies, London
Goodall, Z., Cook, K., & Breitkreuz, R. (2021). Child, Parent and Worker Vulnerabilities in Unregulated Childcare. Social Policy and Society : a Journal of the Social Policy Association, 20(2), 247–263. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1474746420000263
Haydon, D., & Scraton, P. (2009). Children’s rights: rhetoric and reality: Deena Haydon and Phil Scraton explore the deficit in effective implementation of children’s rights in the UK. Criminal Justice Matters, 76(1), 16–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/09627250902895544
Huntington, C., & Scott, E. S. (2020). Conceptualizing legal childhood in the twenty-first century. Michigan Law Review, 118(7), 1371–1457. https://doi.org/10.36644/mlr.118.7.conceptualization
Limb, M. (2015). Government inaction over social injustice is failing children, says Marmot. BMJ : British Medical Journal, 351, h4828–h4828. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h4828
Marshall, J. (2009). Personal freedom through human rights law? autonomy, identity and integrity under the European Convention on Human Rights. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.
Ritchie, G. (2000). Protection of the rights of children – failures in residential care in the UK. Amicus Curiae (Bicester, England), 2000(32). https://doi.org/10.14296/ac.v2000i32.1359
Sellick, C. (2011). Privatising Foster Care: The UK Experience within an International Context. Social Policy & Administration, 45(7), 788–805. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9515.2011.00791.x
Webb, C.J.R. and Bywaters, P. (2018) Austerity, rationing and inequity: trends in children’s and young peoples’ services expenditure in England between 2010 and 2015. Local Government Studies, 44 (3). pp. 391-415. ISSN 0300-3930 https://doi.org/10.1080/03003930.2018.1430028
Whittaker, A., & Havard, T. (2016). Defensive Practice as ‘Fear-Based’ Practice: Social Work’s Open Secret? British Journal of Social Work, 46(5), 1158–1174. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcv048
Williams, M and Franklin, J. (2021) Children and young people’s services: Spending 2010-11 to 2019-20, Barnado’s, National Children’s Bureau, NSPCC, The Children’s Society, Action for Children, Pro Bono Economics. Available: https://www.probonoeconomics.com/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=fca940e7-7923-4eb3-90d3-be345f067017
Calling all social work practitioners in the UK!!
Please consider taking part in this survey, conducted as a pilot on diverse
identities among social work students and practitioners in the UK. We want to
find out specifically about whether and how social work students and
practitioners navigate the boundaries of gender, sexuality and race which may
not be immediately obvious to their cis-gendered, straight, monoracial and/or
monoethnic colleagues, managers, teachers, service users, and carers.
The survey is to help inform the development of a larger study on this topic.
The research team is comprised of Dr Robin Sen, Lecturer in Social Work at the
University of Dundee (he/him) and Dr Reima Ana Maglajlic, Senior Lecturer in
Social Work at University of Sussex (she/her). The research team themselves
have some of the diverse identities which this study explores. Ethical approval
for the study was secured through the University of Sussex Social Sciences and
Arts Research Ethics Committee.
Your participation is voluntary and anonymous. The data is gathered solely for
the purpose of this study and will never be disclosed to any third parties. It
should take between 5-10 minutes to fill out, depending on your identity and
information you are happy to share within the survey. You can skip any
questions you don’t wish to answer and/or which don’t apply to you.
SWAN is pleased to support the Care Review Watch Alliance response the the Case For Change, and shares it here.
The Case For Change is the first position statement released by the ‘Independent’ Review of Children’s Social Care in England, and feels remarkably familiar in its tone. SWAN are concerned that the Westminster government is seeking to reduce its role and responsibilities toward children and families – potentially moving away from state duties to uphold decent standards of living or promote safety for children. The criticism of local authority social workers is creating distance between the government and the profession, leaving space for business, social enterprises and third sector services to tender for roles. We only need to look to the NHS and education to see what has gone before – and the results:
“The Care Review Watch Alliance (CRWA) is a loose collective of people from all corners of the care community including care experienced people, care professionals, educators, researchers, social workers, foster carers and residential care providers. We have come together for a common cause – to share our concerns about the Children’s Social Care Review in England and to challenge the DfE to ensure that this review strengthens much needed support for children and families by investing in services that promote their welfare and not allowing the system to be undermined by allowing the motive to profit to trump the motive to care.
Along with many others we were keen to see what the ‘Case for Change’ report would tell us, although we already had some trepidation with regards to how this review was constructed from the outset, including: the chair’s lack of independence and relationship with the DfE; the lack of transparency around the appointment process; the Chair’s previous publication offering a blueprint for children’s social care which basically proposed the privatisation of a public statutory service; a contract that curtails the chair from offering any criticism of government and making a case for increased funding; an exclusion of key voices in the review; and a catastrophic strategy in engaging those with care experience that caused a lot of distress.
We are saddened to arrive at the conclusion that the Case for Change has only confirmed all of our worst fears – we would have been happy to be proved wrong. Whilst the review does identify some of the key issues that blight the lives of children and families such as poverty and social inequality, it conveniently apportions the blame on local authorities and social workers. This well and truly lets the Government off the hook when we have seen child poverty rates increase exponentially since the introduction of austerity measures a decade ago: through punitive welfare reform legislation leading to cuts in benefits and a vicious circle for some families, as the landscape of vital provision and support has shrunk leaving many to fall through the gaps that have opened up.
This report also exposes the injudicious decision of appointing a chair with very little experience and understanding of children’s social care. The Case for Change is unbalanced and fails to be child focused, which could endanger children in England preventing them from being properly protected from harm, which is a basic and universal right of children and a hallmark of any civilised society. The report also fails to highlight any positive aspects of the current system and its successes in supporting children in care. This makes its intentions very clear: to denigrate public sector services for children and families and replace them with private companies, often global multinationals with no interest in the lives of children that fill their coffers.
This ‘once in a lifetime’ review has begun by repeating what many have been saying for decades and what few can argue with. But where is it taking us? CRWA believe the Review’s likely destination will leave children and families high and dry. We have seen the government wash its hands of its statutory responsibilities for health, education and adult social care. The ‘Case for Change’ suggests that children and families will be next.”
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”. 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”. 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.
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