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Social Work Action Network (SWAN) Conference 2019

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Radical Social Work in Tumultuous Times: Fighting for Equality and Social Justice

This year’s Social Work Action Network (SWAN) will take place at Liverpool Hope University on 6th April 2019.

The conference takes place against a backdrop of growing economic crisis, continuing austerity, Government meltdown over Brexit and the growth of right-wing populism and racism (in the UK and internationally). From Brazil to Hungary, right wing politicians are trying to push back gains made over generations for women’s, LGTB+, workers and indigenous rights.

But it's not all gone their way. Over the last year we have witnessed the magnificent victory for women’s rights in 8th Amendment campaign in Ireland and the growth of the anti-austerity ‘yellow vest’ movement in France.

These are truly tumultuous times and this poses questions to those of us involved in social work. What has been the impact of austerity and cuts on children’s, adults' or mental health services? In the face of managerialism, how do we retain our values? How do we counter the rise of racism and Islamophobia? What do we say to counter Transphobia? How do we support refugee rights? How can we support the struggles of Palestinians?

These and similar questions will be addressed at this year’s SWAN conference. To enrich the debate we have a fantastic list of speakers, including:

  • Gill Archer (Unison national officer)
  • Prof Brid Featherstone (Uni of Huddersfield)
  • Professor Dave Whyte (University of Liverpool)
  • Dr Dave Scott (Open University)
  • Nahalla Ashraf (Stand Up To Racism)
  • Bob Findlay Williams (DPAC)

If you are interested in sending in a paper for consideration at the conference, please send it through to Alissa Ruane:

We also have sessions run by campaigning social work organisations like Social Work Without Borders (SWWB), UK/Pal Social Work Network, the Campaign Against Prison Expansion (CAPE), and In Defence of Youth Work (IDYW)

To top it all off there will be a range of stalls from campaigning organisations and a bookshop selling radical books and merchandise.

The conference is exceptionally cheap, £15 for students and £20 for non-students (and we have 50 free places for refugees and service users).

The price even includes teas and coffees and a packed lunch.

To secure your place at the conference please book here:


If you would like one of the free places, please email



The timetable for the day is:
10-11 - registration 
11-11.45 - initial plenary in the Great hall: The violence of Austerity. Prof Dave Whyte and Dr Vicki Cooper
12-1.15 - Attendees choose from one of four streamed sessions:
(a) The crisis in children's services
(b) the future of adult social care
(c) the impact of marketisation on mental health services
(d) 'No borders!' The struggle for refugee rights
1.15-2 - packed lunch 
2-3.15 - Attendees choose one of four streamed sessions:
(a) Service User Rights
(b) Rethinking fostering and adoption: achieving social justice in practice
      Speakers: Amanda Boorman (Open Nest)
                     Clarissa Stevens (birth parent and co-founder of ReFrame Collective)
                     Speaker with lived experience of adoption - name tbc (Open Nest)
                     Professor Andy Bilson (Emeritus Professor of Social Work UCLan and Adjunct Professor UWA)
                     Professor Brid Featherstone (co-author of the BASW Adoption Report)
(c) Social workers for Palestinian rights!
(d) The case for prison abolition
3.15-3.45 - coffee
3.45 - 4.45 - workshops . We invite participants to send in proposals for papers or workshops
4.45 - 5.30 - closing rally: Social Work and the Struggle Against Oppression
                    Speakers: Nahalla Ashraf (Stand Up to Racism)
                                    Laura Miles (Trans rights activist)
                                    Lyn O'Mara (Glasgow equal pay striker)





Brid Featherstone


David Gordon Scott

David Whyte