Social Work Action Network SWAN

Linked on this blog with In Defence of Youth Work.

Friday 15th April to Saturday 16th April 2011 – SWAN National Conference 2011, themes, programme and speakers:

Activities, Events; Regionals; International; News, Updates; Contributions (reports); Archives; Forum;
Contact online.

SWAN Organisation /Manifesto – 1. Social Work Today: Social work in Britain today has lost direction. This is not new. Many have talked about social work being in crisis for over thirty years now.

The starting point for this Manifesto, however, is that the ‘crisis of social work’ can no longer be tolerated. We need to find more effective ways of resisting the dominant trends within social work and map ways forward for a new engaged practice.

Many of us entered social work – and many still do – out of a commitment to social justice or, at the very least, to bring about positive change in people’s lives. Yet increasingly the scope for doing so is curtailed.

Instead, our work is shaped by managerialism, by the fragmentation of services, by financial restrictions and lack of resources, by increased bureaucracy and work-loads, by the domination of care-management approaches with their associated performance indicators and by the increased use of the private sector. While these trends have long been present in state social work, they now dominate the day-to-day work of front line social workers and shape the welfare services that are offered to clients. The effect has been to increase the distance between managers and front line workers on the one hand, and between workers and service users on the other. The main concern of too many social work managers today is the control of budgets rather than the welfare of service users, while worker-client relationships are increasingly characterised by control and supervision rather than care.

Unless the fundamental direction of social work changes, then neither a new social work degree nor new bodies such as the Social Care Councils will do anything to improve the current situation. These are no more than ‘technical fixes’ for deep-rooted problems. So attempts by individual local authorities to alleviate the staffing crisis by offering cash incentives – the so-called ‘golden hellos’ – simply move the problem around.

In the absence of an organised response to these trends, people understandably react in different individual ways. Some social workers may leave the profession, but for many this is not an option. Some workers have found ways within their workplaces to occupy spaces where they can practice a more rounded social work – in the voluntary sector, for example, or in more specialist projects – but this option is not available to most. Even in the voluntary sector the trends are increasingly mirroring the managerialist pattern of the statutory agencies … (full long text Manifesto).

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