SWU Union Contacts

Welcome to the penultimate Day 9 of SWU's 10th Anniversary Celebration! Be sure to check back each day between June 12-21 for new videos and blogs that showcase our history and celebrate our future.

Today we shine the celebration spotlight on three members of our Union Contact Scheme. Lucy Jacobs, Chrissie Beatty, and Julie Ann Harris talk about their journeys to becoming SWU Union Contacts and what it has meant for them. We count ourselves very lucky that they have chosen to play such an active role in our union!

Be sure to also read SWU National Organiser & Union Contact Manager Carol Reid's blog which is below the videos.

Lucy Jacobs is a Senior Care Manager with the London Borough of Bromley, a social worker, and a SWU Union Contact. In this video Lucy shares her journey to becoming a Union Contact and how it has helped her and her colleagues.
Chrissie Beatty is a social worker in Bournemouth who works in adult social care and a SWU Union contact. In this video Chrissie discusses how she became involved with SWU to help tackle issues like austerity and working conditions.
Julie Ann Harrison is a Senior Social Worker for Local Authorities, Practice Educator, and a SWU Union Contact. In this video Julie discusses how SWU has supported her as a social worker and the benefits of being a Union Contact.

This blog has been written by SWU National Organiser & Union Contact Manager Carol Reid

One of the main attractions of the Social Workers Union (SWU) is that we are a union of social workers for social workers, and members requiring support can be confident that our excellent full-time Advice & Representation Service Team understand all the complexities and demands of social work from personal experience. Whilst we know this is hugely beneficial to members, we also know that it is different from a more conventional union structure where “shop stewards” or “reps” are often visible in workplaces.

We recognised the need to fill this gap – to provide a face and voice of SWU in workplaces and amongst social work students.  As a social worker and lifelong trade unionist with many years of organising experience, I understand the value of encouraging union involvement and activism. So when I took up my post as SWU National Organiser in January 2018, the Union Contact Scheme was born.

The primary focus of SWU Union Contacts is to encourage their social work colleagues and fellow students to join SWU, to promote our campaigns and activities, and share important information and feedback with members – all with the assistance of our ongoing support and resources. Union Contacts can develop their role depending on how much time they are able to commit and depending upon their own interests. For many, it’s simply about sharing essential information with colleagues. Others provide articles for our Newsletter and some enjoy assisting at recruitment stalls or attending marches and rallies – it’s about getting involved in your union, and it’s all Activism.

Union Contacts assist in strengthening SWU’s presence by taking part in Campaigning. This has included media appearances, research groups, and petitions for working conditions, health & safety, and supervision.

Union Contacts have made links with local and national activists via SWU’s Austerity Action Group (AAG) which brings social workers and service users together to campaign within a political arena. The AAG actively campaigns against imposed austerity and its impact upon society’s most vulnerable, as well as the restrictions it places upon social workers’ professional capacity.

Union Contacts are an invaluable support in sharing and contributing to SWU’s Social Media presence, and they have their own dedicated Facebook Group.

SWU collaborates with BASW in encouraging attendance at branch meetings, and Union Contacts’ attendance at BASW Branches ensures that SWU membership and activism is widely promoted.

We now have over 150 Union Contacts who’ve either completed their induction or are awaiting to do so. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a temporary halt to our popular induction days in Manchester, but we’ve overcome this by creating an online induction programme which can be completed by prospective Union Contacts in their own time. Our Union Contacts are predominantly based within local authority social work teams, as well as in health and charity settings, and of course amongst social work students. 

Further developments to the Union Contact programme have enabled several SWU members to become Phase 2 Union Contacts, where they are provided additional training to assist with representational work supporting our full-time A&R Team in local authority workplaces. This exciting element of the scheme is in its infancy, and something that we will be focussing on further once ‘normality’ resumes.

As SWU approaches our 10th anniversary, what better way to celebrate than to become involved, become an activist, and have a role in developing, promoting, and growing your trade union.

In solidarity,

Carol Reid
National Organiser & Union Contact Manager
Social Workers Union