An estimated quarter of a million people, including social workers and service users, turned out at the weekend to protest against government austerity measures.
Frontline social workers, students, and representatives from the British Association of Social Workers and the Social Work Action Network joined the London march from the Bank of England to Parliament Square.
‘Politics of division’
The demonstration was seen by many in the social workers’ bloc as an opportunity to unite a sometimes fractured profession. Social worker, Dan Morton, said he had seen the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) move closer to some of the positions taken by his own organisation, the Social Work Action Network.
He said: “Hopefully it will unite the social work profession. We need to get away from the politics of division and work much more closely together and with service user groups.
Proud to be a social worker & a member of the Labour Party today. This Gov’t presents a real threat to vulnerable children #EndAusterityNow
— Ian Dickson (@IDickson258) June 20, 2015
“I’m here today to oppose the government’s austerity policies, but more specifically the government’s historic attacks on social work, including this week’s news of the closure of The College of Social Work.”
Anna Gupta, a social work academic at Royal Holloway, University of London, added she had seen how austerity cuts have damaged the lives of service users. “The support services aimed at keeping some children and families out of the child protection system have been decimated. Families are being pushed through the courts and inevitably it is families living in poverty,” she said.
— Gerry Nosowska (@EffectivePrac) June 20, 2015
“Social work has such a key role and what we’re seeing coming out of the Department of Education in particular has very little connection to a profession that has the underpinning values of social justice.”
After the march, the crowd was addressed by politicians, union leaders and celebrities including comedian Russell Brand and singer Charlotte Church.
— Itsmotherswork (@itsmotherswork) June 20, 2015
Mental health social worker Dave Williams added the march should be seen as just the beginning: “The purpose of the march, for me, is to raise morale and to bring people together but we need direct action too,” he said. “Social workers need to be bigger voice with the people they work with, in standing against policies like austerity.”