After a hugely successful 2015 conference attended by over 430 people, one of the conference speakers, adult mental health practitioner Raksha Sidhu, reflects upon the sense of hope engendered there despite the devastating changes being enacted upon the social and health care sector:
"The western world we currently inhabit is changing at an alarming rate. 'Change' is the buzz word everywhere, in the media, in the corporate sector and now in the social and health care sector. In fact, the changes are so rapid there is no time to reflect on the impact of these changes, and who they are really benefitting. Social care polices are made and dismantled at a speed which beguiles reason. The Care Act 2014 has come out, promising even more services to greater numbers of people, with precious little resources to match these promises.
In such a climate, the SWAN conference 2015 provided the expert knowledge and the space and time to reflect on what indeed social work is (so much more than ticking boxes and filling forms), what the underlying driver of this profession is (fighting discrimination), and what direction we want to take it (back to the roots of social work, of working with the marginalised and underprivileged, while facing head on the challenges posed by governments and powerful lobbies).
As a non-white social worker of Indian origin, what was particularly heartening for me was to see such an impressively well attended conference with people right across cultures and ethnicities, agreeing whole heartedly that race and racism is an agenda that needs to be put back into front line social work and education. Seeing the passion of people from across the globe and this being celebrated and applauded by my white and non-white social work peer was truly a special experience for me.
I have come back from the conference with a renewed sense of hope- yes, it did deliver as it said on the label- and energy to contribute my voice to the growing voice of social workers who care, and who want the tide to change in favour of those who need change the most- the alienated, disaffected, disempowered and disenfranchised population of this country."