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Motions for the BASW Annual General Meeting 2022

Members can now view and comment on the Motions (proposals for BASW for the next year), which have been put forward for the Annual General Meeting on 17 June.

These motions have all met the constitutional requirements for bringing a motion.

Each year, the Honorary Officers, with agreement of Council liaise with proposers with the aim of making motions as clear as possible for members to take a meaningful vote. Council is pleased once again to have a large number of motions for the Annual General Meeting. We hope to build on this in future and will provide further guidance on bringing motions next year.

Members were able to suggest amendments in writing by 5pm on Friday 3 June. In our constitution, Council (the board of Directors) then is empowered to review these and identify how to present them for members to vote on, for example by combining amendments.  One amendment request has been received for motion 6.

Share your advance comments on motions now

From Friday 10 June until Thursday 16th June members can debate and consider the motions in advance.  Please do consider adding comments as there is limited time for discussion of the motions in the Annual General Meeting.

  • Comments will be moderated before being published and shared with members
  • If you would like to add your name to your post, please do include it in the comments box. Otherwise the post will be shared as anonymous
  • Comments will be moderated and published between the hours of 10:00am-4:00pm each week day from Friday 10 June until 11:00am on Thursday 16 June 2022 when the option to comment in advance will close.
  • Comment on the original motion or reply to another member's post. Press Submit when comment is complete
  • We will aim to publish your comment as soon as we can
  • Please note that member log in is required to add a comment

Inclusion guidance for the AGM

Members attending the AGM in person will have the opportunity to engage in short discussion to the motions.  Members joining the AGM online will be able to engage in online chat on the motion. View our Inclusion Guidance for more useful information on the AGM, including how to join the AGM, engage in debate, consider AGM motions and vote on the day.

Please note the option to submit a proxy vote has now closed.

Motion 1

This Annual General Meeting calls on BASW to recognise the contributions of social workers with neuro-divergent conditions. To achieve this, BASW should:

  • Increase awareness that many in the social work profession are neuro-diverse and bring unique and essential skills to their roles
  • Ensure there is more training on neurodiversity for social workers - especially at managerial level
  • Celebrate the good practice from teams who value and support neuro-diverse social workers.

This AGM asks BASW to support the Neurodiversity Special Interest Group to:

  • Work with Local Authorities and other employers to:
    • Co-produce a neurodiversity policy for social workers and social care staff
    • Encourage the development of staff networks that cater for the interests and needs of neuro-diverse staff
    • Embed inclusive training on neurodiversity at work as an essential part of ongoing training for social workers and managers.
  • Work with Universities and educators to: 
    • Recognise the contributions of neuro-diverse researchers and practitioners
    • Recognise the interests of neuro diverse students during their course and in their work placements
  • Work with regulators to:
    • Recognise that neuro-divergence has impact on practice and the ability of social workers with neuro-divergent conditions to thrive.  

Proposed by Deb Solomon

Motion 2

This AGM notes that:

  • There are myriad ways in which class and classism can play out in social work at practice and policy levels, including through social determinants, such as politically-mandated poverty and austerity, the impact on people’s ability to effectively challenge professionals and authorities, and unequal distribution of local authority resources.
  • Within intersectional approaches, class is often not emphasised, yet lower socioeconomic class is clearly a common characteristic among people who draw the attention of social workers.

Therefore, this AGM calls on BASW to:       

  • Develop a distinct strand within its Equality, Diversity & Inclusion work that promotes class-conscious social work practice by:
    • Commissioning or collaborating on some much-needed research on the impact of class and classism at the interface of social work and the lived experience
    • Developing a suite of class-conscious resources to mitigate the impact of classism in social work practice and policy
    • Promoting awareness of and discussions of class and classism in social work.

Proposed by North East Branch

 

Member comments on motion 2 below

I support this motion. I take the point made in an earlier comment that 'class' and 'classism' are not easily defined but that dos not mean that is part of the experience of social workers and those we seek to help. The point of the motion is that we should not shy away from these as relevant to our work. It is precisely because they are complex and contested terms and contexts that time must be given over to discussing them. There is of course an extensive literature in contributory disciplines of sociology and ethics which can be explored in terms of their relevance to social work. But discussion of class and classism should b part of the values curriculum of social work education and this work would be of assistance to educators in practice and university

BASW member

 

I do not support this motion as we need to clearly define what ‘class’ is and I am not sure that this is something that sits with protected characteristics in terms of EDI work. I would welcome a motion that challenges discrimination against those in poverty and more poverty focused work but ‘class’ is such an ethereal concept with many people moving through their lives into different class identifications. Is it a self-identification? We need to work harder on commonality rather than build further divisions based on definitions that are fuzzy.

BASW member.

 

Motion 3

This AGM notes that:

  • The parallel reviews of children’s social care and adult social care, and the Health and Social Care Bill, stand to profoundly impact on the future of social work in England; Scotland has undertaken reviews of children’s and adult’s social care; Northern Ireland is undertaking its own- review of children’s social care; and there has been a recent call for a review of children’s social care in Wales.
  • The trajectory of reform in children’s social care in England over the last decade has been toward lower regulation and diminution of children’s rights, less local democratic accountability and more outsourcing and privatisation, and there have been similar developments in adult social care.
  • BASW has a history of strongly and explicitly challenging moves to privatise aspects of both children’s and adult’s social care, in petitions, reports and commentary; BASW has also opposed privatisation in the NHS.
  • Therefore, the aforementioned reviews and Bill present a timely opportunity for BASW to revisit its position on privatisation, outsourcing and marketisation, as they may impact on all four jurisdictions.

This AGM calls on BASW to:

  • Consult members on the key issues of marketisation, privatisation and ‘academisation’ in social care and social work.
  • Publish a report on the findings.
  • Use the findings as basis for BASW’s responses and positions on relevant issues as and when required to do so.

Proposed by Coventry & Warwickshire branch

Seconded by North East branch

 

Member comments on motion 2 below

I strongly support this motion. BASW England is to be commended for engaging robustly with 'outsourcing' aspects of Department for education policy over several years and with its work on the Care Review. There are both ethical/ values aspects and 'value for money' aspects which will need a very detailed BASW response and factual challenge as the government moves to implement recommendations from the care review which, as thy currently stand are lacking in detail and clarity
BASW member
 
I have for years vigorously opposed the whole privatisation of public services with particular regard to those affecting children's services and prisons. I have been critical that BASW has not been more active and rejoice that recently widely published critical reports of the failure of privatised services have thrown a spotlight on these scandals.
I am delighted to support this motion and look forward to a vigorous programme of education of both our members and the public to stem this disgraceful, grossly over expensive and destructive mode of operation.
Francis Boylan (Member of the Criminal Justice Group)

Motion 4

This AGM notes that:

  • The 2011 Munro Review of Child Protection proposed the creation of a Chief Social Worker for England post in order to promote the social work profession, consult with social workers, highlight the daily challenges of social workers and to advise government on how policy impacts on the profession. This was later split into Chief Social Worker for Children and Families in England and Chief Social Worker for Adults in England roles. Similar posts exist in Northern Ireland (Chief Social Work Officer), Scotland (Chief Social Work Adviser) and Wales (Chief Social Care Officer).
  • Of the above Chief Social Work/Social Care roles, the enactment of the role of the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families in England, created by Michael Gove in 2013 as Minister for Education, has created considerable concern amongst social workers who consider it has not met the expectations above. Instead, it appears that the role has been used to advocate for government policy and reforms within the profession, while ignoring the concerns raised by many within the profession, including those raised by BASW members.

This AGM mandates BASW to write to the relevant Government Departments in the four home nations to demand that:

  1. The process for revising the Chief Social Worker/Chief Social Care Officer roles, and the selection of any future Chief Social Worker/Chief Social Care Officer, should involve collaboration and consultation with the social work profession, including a central role for BASW as the single biggest representative body of social workers in the UK.
  2. There should be an explicit maximum term that any Chief Social Worker/Chief Social Care Officer should serve of six years, in order to ensure their independence from Government policy agendas, and their representation of the social work profession, is maintained.

Proposed by North East branch

Seconded by Coventry & Warwickshire branch

 

Member comments on Motion 4 below

I support this motion. It is recognised that the CSW is a civil service role. The role is entitled chief to reflect the post holder is the lead and representative of the profession. The alignment of the current post holder so closely to government does not serve the profession well. The lack of visibility during the pandemic, the care review and since only serves to underline BASW must lobby to reclaim the role and in doing so review length of term in post. The social work profession deserves a chief of equal status and visibility as chief nurse. This motion flags specific concerns relating to the CSW Children.
BASW Member

 

The Chief Social Worker role in England was absolutely proposed originally to be a representative of the profession within government:

“A Chief Social Worker would also cast a light on the practice of social work in order that the daily challenges facing social workers are clear to Government as well as raising the status of social work. Having a senior social work position in Government would send out a strong message that this work is valued and important” (Munro, 2011)

While Michael Gove's vision for the role failed to live up to this expectation, upon announcing the role both Gove and Isabelle Trowler stated that the role would be to "champion" the profession within government. The government also frequently gives the involvement of the Chief Social Worker in projects as a reason not to need to engage other potential representatives of the profession, like BASW. Therefore the suggestion that those who have this perspective have not been paying attention is inaccurate.

The focus on the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families in England is clearly highlighted in the motion because her track record on promoting political agendas has been particularly apparent and to demonstrate why this motion is so important for BASW members to vote on. To quote Ray Jones: "although a civil servant, Isabelle Trowler has frequently been the public spokesperson promoting government policies for social work rather than ministers".

That all said, it is important to note the mandates in the motion relate to Chief Social Worker/Care Officer roles broadly. We should expect that, as civil servants, anyone in these roles maintains their impartiality from political agendas, and this could be helped significantly by the simple term limit suggested. In addition, it should not be controversial to suggest that social workers, and BASW as a professional association representing social workers, should have a key role in determining who is suitable to take on these roles.

BASW member

 

I support this motion and consider that there are strong reasons why these roles should not be held without periodic review and the possibility of change. As a member of the group led by Tim Loughton MP that produced the 'No More Blame Game' report that led to the recommendation for a Chief Social Worker I was disappointed when in England the role was split, accelerating the trends away from social work as a single profession. I have no familiarity with how this has worked with respect to social work with adults or outside England. With respect to child and family social work, I have been disappointed that, as a powerful civil service role, in a privileged position and, as I understand it, tasked to facilitate two way understanding and communication between government and social workers, managers, researchers and educators, the role has resulted in the 'voice' of some members of the profession/ other powerful voices, some aspects of child and family social work, and some approaches to service delivery and social work education appearing to be more consistently hard than others. This motion seeks to result in a way of ensuring that all voices are heard, and with BASW having a prominent role to ensure the association and its members have as clear a route to be heard in government as do other professional bodies such as RCN and the medical Royal Colleges

BASW member

 

I do not believe BASW should take a position on an individual like this. It feels like a motion which could damage the professional association for what purpose? We always had it clear that the chief social worker posts are civil service posts and anyone who thought they were about representing social workers wasn’t paying attention. Let the association represent social workers rather than deal in these issues which will only serve to lessen its influence on the centre.

BASW member

Motion 5

This AGM notes that there are currently developments in England about the future of social work education which may have a bearing on social work across the UK. The AGM notes the need to ensure that social work education is able to:

  • Support social work capabilities to work across the lifespan
  • Provide a generic foundation for social work capabilities
  • Provide sufficient capabilities for the development of social work expertise in criminal justice.

This Annual General Meeting calls on BASW to:

  • Promote the benefit of social work education that meets the elements above
  • Consider and respond to the impact specialisation has on the experiences of those communities we serve
  • Enable and advocate for comprehensive professional development including research capabilities.

On the authority of the England Committee

 

I fully support this motion. I have been highly critical for many years about the apparent absence of vital knowledge/learning in the field of criminal justice by qualified social workers, as this plays such an extraordinary part in the lives of many of the families we work with.
However, this is only part of the knowledge base required to be a competent, fully functioning professional and I welcome this motion in its entirety and give it my whole support.
Francis Boylan

 

There are concerning developments moving social work education towards taking a narrow view of the difficulties experienced in society. Surely one of the strengths of social work is in taking a holistic view of the citizen rather than focussing the problem on them and for them to address. I support this motion and urge BASW to represent the profession in these developments.
BASW member and social work academic

 

I strongly support this motion and am pleased to see i coming from the England Committee. I am aware that BASW England is working closely with groupings representing social worker educator/ researchers. I would add 2 points, 1. The problem lies with EARLY specialisation at the initial qualification stage. BASW 'hosts' the PCF that came out of the highly inclusive work of the Gibb report and Task force and this provides routes for a wide rang of specialisms in which the worker and employer can navigate through career choices and further education and training opportunities. I also support the part about Criminal justice being included across career options. It is much to be regretted that, when Probation was decreed by government not to be a part of social work, and funding removed, most HEIs lost their expertise in this area of practice and broader aspects of social work with offenders dropped out of the curriculum of most schools of social work.

BASW member

Motion 6

This AGM recognises that:

 

  • BASW is a membership-led organisation
  • BASW maximises the opportunities for, and supports, members in being involved and respected within the organisation
  • Special Interest Groups and similar member groups add a richness and diversity to BASW.

 

This AGM agrees that:

 

  • Special Interest Groups should have the same entitlement as Branches in directly proposing Motions to BASW’s UK Annual General Meeting
  • Special Interest Groups should be able to review their Terms of Reference with Policy Ethics and Human Rights committee
  • Special Interest Groups should be enabled to take a lead in their area of expertise, for example in consultation responses and position statements, to ensure members’ voices are prominent and to uphold the human rights of those we serve.

 

Proposed by Black Country branch

 

*One amendment request was received on motion 6 as below:

 

This AGM recognises that:

  1. BASW is a membership-led organisation
  2. Special Interest Groups and similar member groups add a richness and diversity to BASW

 

This AGM agrees that:

 

  1. BASW continues to develop and maximise opportunities and support for the membership to lead the Association, to ensure that members are respected within the organisation for such involvement and to support the membership in the realisation of this goal.
  2. Special Interest Groups should have the same entitlement as Branches in directly proposing motions to BASW's UK annual General Meeting.
  3. Special Interest Groups should be able to review their own terms of reference with Policy Ethics and Human Rights committee.
  4. Special Interest Groups should be enabled to take a lead in their area of expertise, for example in consultation responses and position statements to ensure members' voices are prominent and to uphold the human rights of those we serve.

 

Proposed by Coventry & Warwickshire branch

 

Member comments on Motion 6 below:

 

I support this motion to allow working/special interest groups with practice area involvement the right to submit motions to the AGM. Granting this motion would allow for local and national thematic discussions to have equal right to bring motions to the membership at AGM. I do not have a local branch but do contribute via a working group and committee. This motion would allow parity and continue to leave the membership to decide the year’s focus.
BASW Member
 
As a former member of Council and PEHR I still serve on a SIG. SIGs contain a wealth of expertise from within and without BASW. They are able to contribute this to the formation of policy and consultation and thus to inform and arm professional officers to deploy their separate but no less valuable skills to promulgate BASW policy.
PEHR policy was to require SIGs to report annually in person to PEHR on their activity as an Agenda Item. This became more challenging as Council and thence PEHR now only meet four times a year.
PEHR is no longer able to micro manage SIGs and an already cumbersome system has now almost stifled effective communication.
Ideally a member of PEHR should serve on each SIG as a condition of membership.
This would enable any issues to be resolved early and ensure greater harmony between the groups.
Your support for this motion would achieve this:
SIG members may resume their support if they felt valued by BASW, were these measures adopted:
SIGs should be able to propose motions to AGM in their own right just like branches and committees.
SIGs should be able to review their owns Terms of Reference with PEHR to reflect their own diverse agenda and not be forced to adopt one size fits all.
SIGs should be able to lead in their area of expertise in consultations and position statements.
Minutes of Council and Committees should be posted promptly if only in draft for members to see.
I do therefore urge you to vote for this motion to develop a more transparent and democratic member led BASW.
Andrew MacDonald
 

Motion 7

This AGM notes that the cost of living crisis is affecting people across our society including social workers. BASW alongside its partnership with the Social Workers’ Union recognises the impact of the cost of living crisis.

This AGM asks BASW to respond to the cost of living crisis by:

  • Recognising the impact on social workers of real terms pay cuts, the rise in National Insurance contributions, the cost of food, fuel, registration and other essential elements.
  • Striving to enable inclusive membership by responding to the pressures on social workers
  • Speaking up for those hardest hit by society’s injustices.

And in particular for BASW Council to:

  • Strongly consider freezing fees for 2022-23, and review how the fee structure can maintain our current members through the cost of living crisis.

Proposed by Carys Phillips

 

Member comments on Motion 7 below:

I support this motion. The strength of BASW in our collective action.

BASW Member

I support this motion to support workers during these difficult times.

BASW member

 

An excellent motion, I fully endorse this. Thanks for proposing this.

BASW member

Motion 8

This AGM notes:

  • Social work is a human rights-based profession
    • “The overarching principles of social work are respect for the inherent worth and dignity of human beings, doing no harm, respect for diversity and upholding human rights and social justice. Advocating and upholding human rights and social justice is the motivation and justification for social work” (IFSW Global definition of social work, 2014)
  • On 26 January 2022, BASW announced that it endorses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism
  • This decision was made without consultation with the wider membership, and the process that led to the decision is unclear
  • The IHRA definition, and the illustrative examples attached to it, which conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism, have been heavily criticised by a range of legal experts, academics, and civil society groups
  • The legal opinion of Hugh Tomlinson QC, endorsed by the lawyers Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Sir Stephen Sedley, that
    • the definition’s poor drafting means public bodies applying the definition could be at serious risk of “unlawfully restricting legitimate expressions of political opinion”
    • describing Israel as a state enacting a policy of apartheid, as practising settler colonialism or calling for policies of boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel cannot properly be characterized as antisemitic
  • The publication of the Amnesty International report: Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity on 1 February 2022.

This AGM believes:

  • The IHRA definition will have a “chilling effect” on free speech, in the words of Geoffrey Robertson QC, in relation to BASW members speaking out about Israeli apartheid and acting in solidarity with the Palestinian people
  • That BASW should support social workers in speaking freely, in order to meet their obligations under its Code of Ethics to oppose all forms of discrimination and oppression and challenge human rights abuses
  • Given the criticisms of the IHRA definition, and its contested nature, BASW should have followed a transparent process, to include a full consultation with members, before reaching a decision.

This AGM therefore resolves:

  • That BASW will suspend the decision to endorse the IHRA definition of antisemitism, until a full consultation exercise has been completed, and agreement is reached on whether BASW needs to adopt a particular definition of antisemitism, and if so, what this should be
  • This consultation should take into account BASW’s responsibilities as a member of the International Federation of Social Workers, noting its Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles
  • To restate its commitment to BASW’s Code of Ethics, and its clear statements of social workers’ responsibilities to promote social justice, protect human rights, and challenge oppression on any basis.

Proposed by Abyd Quinn-Aziz

 

Member comments on Motion 8 below:

As a person who is neither Jewish nor Palestinian but who is nevertheless invested in upholding the rights and interests of marginalised and oppressed groups, I believe a key issue with the IHRA definition is that it focuses on antisemitism purely as a system of beliefs, which of course it is, rather than on identifiable, sanctionable acts, which are the material manifestation of such beliefs. Therefore, my concern is that thr definition is too open to interpretation and challenge to be workable. This is borne out by the illustrative examples aimed at identifying antisemitic acts accompanying the definition. Fears that some of these examples appear to frame criticism of Israeli government policy and activity as potentially antisemitic are, in my view, not unfounded. BASW has stated that it has adopted the definition, not the examples, but this does not address the definition's openness to interpretation and challenge that arguably led to the illustrative examples being needed in the first place. The current wording of the definition risks leaving open the real possibility of legitimate criticism of the unjust policies and actions of a militaristic, nationalist government of Israel being interpreted as antisemitic. Further the definition's lack of clarity on what constitutes antisemitic acts (examples aside) leaves it open to challenges that effectively render it unworkable. Neither outcome serves anyone, save those who wish to weaponise debate to sow division among those who seek progress. It is axiomatic that effective equality measures benefit all of us. Don't we all need a definition of antisemitism that is workable? While recognising and acknowledging with no small amounts of sadness the understandable depth and intensity of feeling among people to whose experiences and history these issues speak so acutely, it is for these reasons I support this motion.
Christian Kerr, BASW member

 

The main issue for me here is the part of the motion that states "and agreement is reached on whether BASW needs to adopt a particular definition of antisemitism, and if so, what this should be". Antisemitism is on the rise at an alarming rate. Non-Jewish members are in the majority in deciding the fate of Jewish members, how antisemitism should be discussed or whether or not there should even be a definition of antisemitism.

My second point is that as Jews we often get platitudes of 'we will fight antisemitism at every turn' or 'we will listen to Jewish experiences and they will be at the centre of 'debates' about antisemitism'. Yet, at every turn so far, when Jews have spoken up or talked about their experiences, we have been silenced, cancelled or stopped because we are not saying things exactly how others want to hear them (e.g. this motion). Show us, demonstrate to us, and let us know exactly what you are actively doing to listen to Jewish voices because we don't see it. All we see is that anti-zionists are trying to force us into a position about Israel and Palestine...the very thing that the IHRA definition tries to address.

Lastly, the argument that some people may misuse the definition to oppress others, so, therefore, we must throw it out completely, is flawed. By some people, what is meant is some zionists. By some zionists, what is meant is some Jews. What many Jewish people are therefore hearing is - we know that some of you Jews are nasty oppressors and you cannot be trusted with leading your own definition of antisemitism.

I would strongly urge members to think about the overall message they are sending out to their Jewish colleagues, and for the above reasons reject the motion. However, I would agree that the definition needs to be revised, but Jewish experiences should lead...not exclusively define...but lead those discussions.

Paul Shuttleworth, BASW member

 

This motion distracts from BASW’s work against anti-Semitism in the UK and it also distracts from the condemnation of oppressive Israeli government policies towards Palestinians.

We social workers have often been criticised for ‘talking but not doing the walking’ and I fear this has become another example of talking which has become divisive and unconstructive.

Human rights practice starts at home in the “small places” within our communities and with the people we live and work, so we should listen to the voice of our Jewish colleagues who are personally affected by anti-Semitism and who are also unfairly affected by the actions of the Israeli government.

The BASW UK Statement against anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish discrimination and hatred attempts to address this issue and draws on the experience of Jewish members and the definition of anti-Semitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance who has lived experience in this field. They deserve our respect and to be heard.

I will vote against Motion 8 because more talk about definitions would not address the issue of anti-Semitism in the UK nor improve the oppression of Palestinians in Israel. Let’s walk together to address oppression and discrimination of all kinds.

Duc Tran, BASW member

 

I’d like to add some further context to this motion and this discussion.

In December 2019, BASW published an international human rights guide, written by a number of social work academics -

Harms-Smith L, and Martinez-Herrero MI, Arnell P, Bolger J, Butler-Warke A, Downie M, Nicholls J and MacDermott D (2019) Social Work and Human Rights: The International Context. BASW: Birmingham - available at https://www.basw.co.uk/media/news/2019/dec/social-work-and-human-rights-guides-launched

On page 15 of this guide, in a section on racism, the authors wrote:

‘The non-legally binding Definition of Anti-Semitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (2016): “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities” has also been contested, including by the Jewish Voice for Peace (17 July 2018) claiming that it conflated “anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid”.’

Here is the reference given for the Jewish Voice for Peace article, which lists the 40+ Jewish groups around the world, which all opposed the IHRA definition -

Jewish Voice for Peace (2018). ‘First-ever: 40+ Jewish groups worldwide oppose equating antisemitism with criticism of Israel’. https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/first-ever-40-jewish-groups-worldwide-oppose-equating-antisemitism-with-criticism-of-israel/

I would encourage anyone who wishes to learn more about this issue to follow that link and read the reasons given for urging institutions to reject the IHRA definition.

A tweet from an anonymous Twitter account complained to BASW about their human rights guide containing this comment and this reference to the Jewish groups’ opposition (it’s hard to see what there is to complain about in the statements of fact that the IHRA definition has been contested, including by Jewish groups) and shortly after this, BASW tweeted, mistakenly, that it had endorsed the IHRA definition, a statement it subsequently retracted (this was in February 2020).

So BASW was well aware of the controversy around the IHRA definition, and has in fact published a human rights guide that refers to the opposition to the definition from many Jewish groups.

If BASW wanted to consider endorsing the IHRA definition (which no other professional association, or national social work association in the world, has done as far as I know), it would therefore seem incumbent on it to consult widely on this, given the controversy surrounding it.

Yet as the motion says, there was no consultation with the wider membership, and all we know is that an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Project Group, of unknown membership (members and staff), in un-minuted meetings (not public minutes at least), produced the statement on antisemitism that contained the endorsement, which minutes of a 19 January Policy, Ethics and Human Rights committee meeting (that only became available on 25 May) suggest was signed off by that committee’s Chair after the meeting after minimal discussion (“Any comments to Chair as a matter of urgency by Friday 21st January. Chair will then, subject to any comments submitted, sign off the paper.”).

This is surely insufficient consultation on such an important, controversial and divisive issue, and this motion is simply calling for the suspension of the decision to endorse the IHRA definition until a full consultation exercise has been completed.

I support the motion.
Guy Shennan

 

Over 70% of BASW members are Social Workers Union members, therefore it is useful to see the Social Workers Union statement on not endorsing the IHRA definition of antisemitism:

https://www.basw.co.uk/media/news/2022/jun/swu-statement-solidarity-pale...

BASW member

 

We should listen carefully to Jewish experiences of antisemitism and those experiences should be our starting point for any discussion of antisemitism in BASW and the social work profession. I however disagree that Jewish people have an exclusive right to define what antisemitism is. An exclusive in-group right to define what is racism against it has not applied to other forms of racism in my experience of such discussions. Take Islamophobia. In 2018 the Policy Exchange wrote a full report in 2018, authored by two non-Muslims, arguing against an All Party Parliamentary Group’s definition of Islamophobia. In 2019, the non-Muslim journalist Melanie Phillips wrote an article in The Jewish Chronicle claiming that the concept of Islamophobia is used “to silence any criticism of the Islamic world”. Phillips also wrote the concept was “profoundly anti-Jew.” People criticised both of these outputs, and discussed them. But, I do not recall hearing the argument, in either of these cases, or since that time, that only Muslims should have the right to define what Islamophobia is. 

Council has stated that they did not include the examples that come with the IHRA definition as they know these have been used to shut discussion down. But the fact is the IHRA definition comes with those examples attached to it. Can Council name a single other organisation in the UK which has adopted the IHRA definition without the examples? Those examples have indeed been used to try and shut down legitimate criticism of Israel. Most recently some tried to use one of the IHRA examples to argue that the respected human rights organisation, Amnesty International, should have its charitable status removed due to antisemitism, because it has produced a detailed reported which concludes that Israel is an apartheid state. People who disagree with Amnesty’s conclusion should, of course, be able to challenge it. But that discussion should not be artificially closed down by inaccurate claims of antisemitism by some of those who dislike Amnesty’s conclusion. Adopting the IHRA definition risks indicating BASW’s tacit support for the closing down of this and similar discussions around Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. It is for that reason I do not support the IHRA’s adoption by BASW. And it is also the principal reason why I am in support of this motion.
Robin Sen, BASW member, Edinburgh

 

What a great motion.

I fully support it.

Too often things that may appear innocuous creep in unchallenged and then when it is too late people notice.

Social work has proud ethics of equality and justice for all. The IHRA definition, although in itself innocuous is linked to examples which have been used increasingly to shut down solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine.

This motion is not about antisemitism it is about needing to support Social workers who speak up for justice everywhere for all oppressed people including challenging the oppressor Israel.

 

I support this motion as I stand with the oppressed of Palestine against the Apartheid of Israel. The IHRA definition when endorsed even with caveats has been used repeatedly for example in Universities  and political parties to suppress free speech  about Israel. We must not let this happen in social work. Stand for justice. Stand with this motion.

 

One comment suggested that this motion is about antisemitism and who can define it. But it isn't. It is about needing to recognise that the IHRA definition of antisemitism is the one which has been used in many forums to prevent free speech in holding Israel to account and that social workers who have a proud tradition of speaking up against oppression need to be able to do so without fear of being considered anti semitic for criticising Israel. Many Jews and Jewish organisations are against the IHRA definition for this reason. They too have a proud tradition of fighting oppression.

BASW member

 

I am in entire agreement with Abyds motion. Whilst there needs to be a definition of Anti-Semitism that seeks to protect victims of hate crimes, a definition that attaches politics onto it with a current political conflict in Palestine would silence Social Workers who are against discrimination in all presentations and disagree with the treatment of the people of Palestine.
BASW member
 

I feel, this motion, being a very emotive subject, should allow more time before a decision is made to discuss whether to remove Declaration. The reason being, I would take a guess, that many Members have very limited knowledge of the situation and their understanding, and decision making may be influenced by limited understanding. Although I agree an opportunity was lost by not having a consultation in the first place, I believe removing now is detrimental. I would prefer that the motion stays whilst there is now a consultation of whether to remove or not, and, that members are supported to educate themselves before final vote regarding adoption of the Declaration.

BASW member 

 

Fully support Abyd's Motion and ask BASW to consult members before accepting the IHRA definition.

BASW member

 

Jewish people have a right to define antisemitism. This is not a motion that should be brought. If a member has a concern about Israeli policy, they are able to bring a motion about that but trying to link a definition of antisemitism to a misrepresentation of the IHRA (which in no way restricts criticism of the Israeli government) is an attempt to politicise anti-racism and, given BASW’s acknowledgement that it needs to challenge antisemitism more effectively, is at risk of further alienating and silencing Jewish members.

BASW member

 

It is important that as with all the wicked dilemmas we are asked to wrestle with as Social Workers we continue to be brave in standing up for and in solidarity alongside the oppressed and calling for social and political change where it is necessary to achieve a fairer society locally, nationally and internationally. This includes the necessity that we should be able to both speak out against antisemitism where there is discrimination and prejudice on all levels, and also that we should be able to also be free to criticise the state of Israel and the political establishment there in advocating for Palestinians who are discriminated against too.

 

I am in agreement with the motion for there to be more careful thought by BASW regarding its approach to this issue and the adoption of any definition or statement in relation to antisemitism so that we can be sure that we are able to speak up for the rights of people on both sides in this debate, and that we can call unequivocally for change to the policies and practices of the state of Israel that continue to perpetuate human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. It is essential that BASW be consistent in its policies and positions in order to underpin our role as Social Workers in opposing all forms of discrimination and oppression and abuse of human rights.

Ben E, BASW London

 

BASW Council members agreed to comment on this motion to provide some context. There are a few clarifications that we think it is helpful for members to be aware of:

The motion says that on 26 January 2022, BASW announced that it endorses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

‒ This refers to the launch of the BASW UK Statement against antisemitism and anti-Jewish discrimination and hatred. This statement is guided by our Code of Ethics. It builds on our overarching statement on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and our BASW UK Statement on Anti-Racism. The statement endorses the IHRA working definition of Antisemitism. This follows our principle of using definitions that come from people who experience oppression.

The motion says that this decision was made without consultation with the wider membership, and the process that led to the decision is unclear.

‒ Since March 2020, there has been a great deal of work in BASW UK to enhance and embed our position and work on anti-racism. This work has been owned by Council, and has been led by our Equality Diversity and Inclusion project group. The project group consists of lead members from Council and our EDI Advisory Group, and lead staff. The project group drafted the BASW UK Statement against antisemitism and anti-Jewish discrimination and hatred. This was signed off by Policy Ethics and Human Rights committee, which is the member-led committee that has delegated responsibility from Council for UK-wide policy.

The motion says that the IHRA definition will have a “chilling effect” on free speech.

‒ We recognise that any statement about racism or discrimination risks being used by some to try and shut down a legitimate criticism of a person, practice, organisation or state. In itself, that is not a reason for not making such statement. We are, of course, also aware that some individuals and groups have tried to use the IHRA definition of antisemitism in this way. This was not our intention in adopting the IHRA definition. And it was for this reason that we have highlighted the statement in the IHRA text that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’. We have intentionally not included examples of antisemitism from the IHRA definition as these have been interpreted unhelpfully. Our Code of Ethics prevent any member of BASW from acting to suppress human rights. BASW is also clear the IHRA has no status in qualifying or interpreting the UK Human Rights and Equality legislation.

The motion mentions BASW’s responsibilities as a member of the International Federation of Social Workers.

‒ BASW is proud to be an active member of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). IFSW has a long-standing position of supporting and promoting the equal rights for both Israelis and Palestinians. IFSW recognise that the forced removal from land and control of Palestinians is a reality and that globally antisemitism exists. The Federation takes the position that it actively supports finding agreement between the peoples of Israel and Palestine that is mutually respectful of everyone´s rights and freedoms. In the profession´s analysis, based on global experience of peacebuilding, IFSW believe this is the only realistic way to resolve this longstanding conflict.

 

We welcome the opportunity given by the Annual General Meeting to discuss important questions. We are also conscious that there is very limited time in the meeting. We consider that this could be discussed more fully outside of the AGM forum. We have asked Policy Ethics and Human Rights Committee to review the statement in consultation with members. This would usually happen for any statement, and we have agreed to bring this forward. Following the AGM, PEHR will identify a timetable and process for this.

BASW Council members

 

Statement by Jewish Social Workers Group on Resolution 8 at BASW UK AGM June 2022

Collectively we urge this resolution to be withdrawn.
Antisemitism is on the rise again across the world and yet once again we are expected to defend our rights to define our own identity.

This resolution is bringing to BASW a draining political set of arguments that have caused deep division in other organisations and is likely to be divisive within BASW as well, whether at the AGM or not.
There may be issues about the IHRA declaration, but this has now become totemic, and passing the resolution will put BASW on , in anti racist and ethical terms, the wrong side of the argument.

We urge people to read BASW’s antisemitism statement before deciding how to vote . It is very clear about the ability, and necessity even, to stand and fight for the rights of Palestinians without being accused of antisemitism.

Whilst on the face of it Resolution 8 seems well-reasoned and compelling, as social workers we must always place action in its socio-political historical context. The fact is that every time Jewish people speak out or try to define what antisemitism means to them, they are met with resistance- every time, without fail, and usually by the same non-Jewish people, whether it be in a blog, a book chapter, a podcast, or an antisemitism statement. Talking about antisemitism should not stifle the necessary debate about Israel and Palestine . But also, no-one should be stifling Jewish people talking about or defining antisemitism. That is what is happening here, once again. We see it, we feel it, and we understand it's ramifications even if many non-Jewish people don't.

Members of the JSWG are frustrated that their very varying notion of Judaism are seen by others as automatically meaning they have a view about Israel, which for some may be central to their identity but for many this is not the case, yet we are asked , effectively, to defend the Israeli government.
We ask, very simply that we are heard and taken seriously. As Jewish people we should be allowed to lead on definitions of antisemitism in the same way that black people should lead on definitions of anti-black racism. Place the voices of those that are experiencing oppression, in this case antisemitism, at the centre of social work policy and practice. As the only U.K. Jewish social worker's group, a number of our members also have issues with some of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and its focus on Israel/Palestine. However, it seems only just that we, as Jewish people, lead on finding better ways to define it . But we should not have to suffer, once again, without any definition of antisemitism until that time. Antisemitism in the U.K. is rising at a "chilling" rate.

We understand that we will be in the minority on this, and this just demonstrates the difficulties of being a minoritised group. But we ask for allies and for people to be brave and just, and show their allyship towards Jewish people and Jewish voices. Listen to us and grant us the 'privilege' of defining what being Jewish means and what antisemitism means. Let us not be told by non-Jewish people in order to fit with their own agendas.
It should be noted that none of the members of the U.K. Jewish group feels comfortable to personally stand against the motion. This is not because we don't feel we should, but rather it is indicative of the very real and well documented fear that we have. We are not prepared to put ourselves in that position.

We urge BASW UK Council to withdraw this resolution but If they wont we urge Members to oppose.

Jewish Social Workers Group

 

This raises some excellent points - thank you. In my opinion, the IHRA definition of antisemitism is generally good, but the examples used in its guide are confusing and seem to be suggesting that criticising Israel might be antisemitic.  I don't think BASW should be endorsing such a highly contested and unclear definition, at least not without either sound legal advice or member consultation.   I think we should be able to criticise Israel for its human rights abuses without being called antisemitic. I agree with this motion!

BASW member