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John McGowan, General Secretary reports on the SWU AGM

The Social Workers Union 2020 AGM reinforced the positives with being a social work and some great successful motions were presented albeit in a different format this year.

However, to say that social work is a challenging profession is of course something of an understatement and this is an important message heard throughout the 2020 AGM and AGM Reports. 

Please download the SWU AGM report here 

We all know the impact on social workers of cutbacks to services and staffing but we also know the terrific work we do and continue to do regardless of a pandemic. 

We can never lose sight of the positive work we all do as social workers and that sense of promoting real change for the people we work with which is part of the social work DNA. 

There are however still on-going challenges in the workplace and promoting the great work we do widely throughout the media and the public. We will continue our battle to promote social work further and challenge poor social work practices in the workplaces and look forward to working with members over the next 12 months to furnish some of our AGM commitments and ongoing campaigning. 

As a SWU member, you will know that Employment Representation from a Qualified Social Worker, who knows the profession inside and out, is important.

The Trade Union Advice and Representation (A&R) Team are at the forefront of this organisations and if you ever need their services then you can be assured of professionalism from a service from social workers who understand the profession. 

Hopefully the additional SWU benefits will also add value to the extra you pay to SWU over your BASW membership; at only £25 a year (£10 for students) this continues to be terrific value with no increase this year. 

The General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) training options available to members are worthy of a look as are the legal and financial discounts and training provided from Dr Neil Thompson.

I would urge all SWU members to spread the word and encourage social work colleagues and friends to join.  It is much more than just paying your fee as a safety net in case you need representation; as we have lots more going on, and opportunities to be active.

I am delighted to report that the following motions were all passed unanimously:

Motion 1

Government policy advocates involving people with lived experience in the design and delivery of health and social care.  The Austerity Action Group supports such involvement in policy formation but has noted that many service user and carer organisations have folded under austerity and that it is increasingly difficult to attract people with lived experience to commit to co-production.  Key reasons for this are the fear of benefits sanctions and the complexities involved in deducting tax and NI for what is often casual, time-limited involvement.  Local benefits advice on how to remunerate such involvement is convoluted and contradictory while universities and agencies all take different approaches.  The Austerity Action Group proposes in this Motion that it will use its influence as part of SWU, and network across the UK to consult with key stakeholders towards defining a clear policy to put to government regarding remuneration for involvement of service users and carers.

 Motion 2

Social work consists of between 78 and 80 percent female workforce and for this reason is described as a ‘female-dominated profession’. McPhail has argued that “social work is more correctly described as a female majority, male-dominated profession” (McPhail, 2004b: 325). SWU will work to support women are heard and represented through all of its work and endeavours.

Ref: McPhail BA. (2004b) Setting the record straight: Social work is not a female-dominated profession. Social Work 49(2): 323–326. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Motion 3

The SWU Exec would like to ask the AGM to endorse our thanks to the many social workers who have continued to provide an essential service in very difficult circumstances during the current Covid19 pandemic.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Motion 4 

This AGM  recognises the great work being undertaken by our union contact activists in helping to support our members through these difficult times and in particular to note the value of the highly skilled advice & representative service providing professional services to those of our members who are experiencing problems in their workplace.

Although we continue to develop and grow as a union; you can see clearly that the union is active and terrific value for members.  With our status as an organisational member of BASW we can provide annual membership for BASW members for only £25 (£10 for students).