A round up of BASW’s AGM 2018, conference and protest walk
BASW’s AGM 2018 in Cardiff saw a changing of the guard as newly elected chair Gerry Nosowska officially began her tenure, receiving the baton from Guy Shennan.
Nosowska had spoken earlier in the day to a packed audience during BASW’s conference at the Glamorgan Cricket Ground, where she spoke of her desire for the professional association to empower social workers.
There was much recognition for the work done by Shennan over the past four years, notably his significant role in launching the campaign to Boot Out Austerity (BOA).
During his leaving speech, Shennan said his personal highlight was the culmination of BOA during 2017’s AGM, when he marched with scores of BASW members and service users from Birmingham to Liverpool in an epic seven-day, 100-mile protest walk to highlight the cruel impact of austerity policies – and that it is a political choice.
It was fitting therefore that this year, BOA ‘the sequel’, complimented the AGM once again. To the collective relief of many members’ feet, 2018’s protest-walk comprised just 15 miles from Blackwood to Cardiff, completed on Tuesday.
The highlight was arguably at the midway point in Caerphilly, where under Tommy Cooper’s statue a staged rally saw the legendary union activist, Tyrone O’Sullivan, deliver a stirring speech on the power of protest.
In Cardiff, a fringe event aptly chaired by professional officer Allison Hulmes welcomed the weary travellers at the Chapter Arts Venue.
After a quick refresh, a stimulating panel debate saw Shennan, BASW chief executive Ruth Allen, Social Workers Union general secretary John McGowan, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood, Jen Dafin (Psychologists for Social Change) and Adam Johannes from Cardiff People’s Assembly discuss all manner of social work issues, not least the impact of poverty and how social workers can be more aware of it in practice.
Bright and early the next day, an audience of 250 consisting of BASW members, representatives from local authorities, academics and legislators heard from several speakers including disability activist Karen Passmore, professor Donald Forrester, principal social worker Shelly Caldwell, as well as Northern Ireland’s chief social worker Sean Holland.
Also taking to the lectern was Huw Irranca-Davies AM, Wales minister for children, older people and social care, who struck the right chord when he contrasted England’s austerity polices on social care with the ‘Welsh way’.
He spoke of his “disgust and devastation” at seeing over thousand Sure Start centres close, contrasting that with the investment Wales has made in opening hundreds of the Welsh equivalent – Flying Start centres – that help and support families.
The AGM followed, which covered the milestones from the previous year, including BASW’s move to new premises.
As we look to the future, from a new home, and with a new chair, BASW will continue to support and represent social workers – as your professional association – and is determined to curate a compelling positive narrative of social work to influence government, the media and the public.