Critical Social Work Bristol Event: Initial Report of the Day

A full reflection upon the day will be published soon, but for now, here is the initial report of the event:
“The title was “Critical Social Work: Threats, opportunities and building alliances of resistance.
Feedback suggests that those attending felt both informed but also uplifted by the way that the theme was addressed.  There was clearly a feeling generated that you are not alone in experiencing the social work field as pretty dire at the moment but there are things we can do – if we work together.  
Ray Jones gave a realistically alarming keynote speech about not only how things are but what is planned, as well as some ideas for the ways in which professional and service user organisations can work together to resist these developments.
Then the workshops and other plenary talks and discussions looked at what was feasible in the way of modelling better practice and building alliances of resistance between social workers and service users.  
We had Deirdre Ford, Avril Bellinger and Mark Baldwin looking in some depth at the state of play in social work education at the moment and the way in which developments there mirror those in the broader health and social care field, with privatisation of services and the social work curriculum marginalising the profession and placing service users at risk of receiving no more than residual services when they are in crisis.  
Sarah Etherington, a student social worker from Social Work without Borders provided a welcome opportunity, in her workshop, to think about we can do as a profession in the face of the racism and marginalisation experienced by refugees.  
Marie Porter and Tom & Mark Baldwin provided a well-attended workshop on effective campaigning and resistance.  
Yasmin Ishaq & Annie Jefferies talking about Open Dialogue as a helpful and empowering approach to mental health social work. 
Roger Lewis from DPAC provided not only a wonderful workshop but also gave a blistering plenary talk about the need for social workers and service users to stick together in the face of neo-liberal attacks on disabled people. 
Penny McKissock and Sharon Wiseman from the Southside Project in Bath informed us of ways in which a community organisation can work with and then recruit people from the local community to make a difference in people’s lives. This was a brilliant example of professional and service user alliance working for the good of individuals and the community. 
As with all SWAN conferences, the involvement of a broad range of people interested in social work, and especially the attendance of a number of service users, meant that we were able to have a series of dynamic discussions about the issues and possibilities, even in the plenary sessions.  
There was a fair bit of momentum built up through this event and the steering group are planning to build upon this in the coming months in the south west of England.”
The SWAN steering committee offer their thanks to the SWAN WofE regional group and the University of Bristol for hosting such a powerful event. Any attendees wishing to share their reflections, simply email

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