Chair's Blog


A call to action!

I mentioned Terry Bamford’s new book in my last blog post and, following a pleasant coincidence that happened last Friday (10th April), I am very happy to do so again. I had left my copy in my Glasgow hotel room as I went to nearby Paisley for the first day of the Social Work Action Network (SWAN) conference, then, lo and behold, Iain Ferguson –Professor of Social Work at the University of West Scotland and one of SWAN’s founders – quoted a couple of sentences from it in his opening address: “The most influential critics of neoliberalism have come together in the Social Work Action Network” (p103) and “SWAN has held some very successful conferences, attracting numbers far beyond the reach of the British Association of Social Workers or the College of Social Work” (p104).

Having attended SWAN’s tenth conference I am happy to quote Iain quoting Terry’s book in this way. It was an excellent, vibrant event, attended by 420 people I believe, with 220 of these being social work students. I spoke once or twice, expressing my admiration for  what SWAN has achieved and for what it will surely achieve in the future, and saying that I was taking this as a challenge to BASW, a call to action! I don’t think Terry can be right though. Why should such numbers be beyond the reach of BASW? We had, I understand, 300 last year at St Lukes in London, with the possibility of more given that it was a sell-out. I look forward to BASW’s conferences growing.

I signed up to SWAN’s mental health charter while I was there, as I am fully behind its sentiments and objectives. Another coincidence then to come home to an email from my friend Dave Harper, a clinical psychology lecturer at the University of East London, telling me about both this charter and a new group he is involved with, Psychologists Against Austerity. Good to see a letter in today’s Guardian (17th April) signed by both these groups and many others, sounding “the starting bell for a broad-based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health”. I noticed there weren’t many social workers amongst the signatories. Another call to action!

My own entry into social work was from a highly political standpoint. I was interviewed earlier this year by someone from a Swedish organisation called Solution-Focused News, mainly about the history of my solution-focused work. I started with becoming a social worker, and you can see the first extract, “I saw social work as applied politics”, here.


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