Socialist Worker

Social workers debate refugee solidarity

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2507

Swan conference

Swan conference (Pic: Swan)

Up to 250 people attended the Social Work Action Network (Swan) conference last Saturday in central London. It took place before a European social work day of solidarity with refugees, which saw a delegation from the conference set off on a convoy to Calais.

A key theme of this year’s conference was solidarity with refugees and resistance to racism.

The opening plenary heard powerful accounts of the conditions in refugee camps along migration routes that brought home the brutality of Fortress Europe. And there was also condemnation of Britain’s immigration, asylum and detention system and the Tories’ sinister new Immigration Act.

A session on the drive to privatise local social services heard from trade unionists organising against the 40 percent cuts to council budgets under the Tories, with another 40 percent cut to come.

This is going alongside moves to create a new class of social workers comfortable with being managers of firms profiting from services such as child protection. With student bursaries being cut the Tories are attempting to shape the next generation of social care workers.

Looking at the crisis in mental health services speaker after speaker denounced attempts to “medicalise” people’s problems, ignoring the social context and the “maddening” world of capitalism. Many argued that “equality is the best therapy”.

Swan’s strength is that it unites workers, academics, students and people who use social work services. Their aim is fighting for a radical vision of what social work and social services should be.

This year’s conference shows that project is going strong. Find out more at

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