Boot Out Austerity!
Social Workers Walking for Social Justice

On 19th April, a group of social workers and supporters set off from Birmingham on a seven-day walk to Liverpool, to arrive the day before the British Association of Social Workers hold their 2017 Annual General Meeting and Conference there - and we want you to get involved.

To register your interest, encourage those walking or simply state your support please contact Guy Shennan:

Day 5 - Sunday 23 April

Sunday morning saw us rallying in Sandbach market square near its two ancient crosses, with Angi setting us off in fine style with a rendition of Part Of The Union - sounding better together from the stage and sound system that had been set up for the Sandbach Transport Festival later that day - which was a suitable introduction to Kerie Anne from UNISON who joined us for the day and brought us UNISON’s support. 7-day walker, Donna Peach, spoke in her role as an Ambassador for Voicing CSA, making connections with this role and the aims of the walk. Poems and more songs saw us then leave the stage and march up the bunting-hung Sandbach High Street, en route to Northwich.

There was another good crowd, and the always welcome new #BootOutAusterity fac...

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Day 4 - Saturday 22 April

The biggest crowd yet gathered at the ASHA Centre near Hanley Park in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday morning, with weekend walkers warmly welcomed into the Boot Out Austerity fold.

There was a real buzz in the room, as 7-day walkers reunited after a night spread out around the Potteries, and we were joined by people from ASHA, who supplied generous amounts of tea, coffee and toast.

The rally outside began with Godfroide welcoming us to ASHA and telling us a little about their work with asylum seekers and refugees in Stoke. The next welcome to Stoke came from Councillor Mohammed Pervez, the leader of the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent Council. He told us about the difficulties faced by Stoke due to the huge cuts that have been imposed in recent ye...

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Day 3 - Friday 21 April

The longest day and maybe the shortest blog post and the two aren’t unrelated. Tiredness can affect more than the legs and feet!

It’s not just the walking though, it’s also because of how action-packed these days are. After ending the walking today, outside Stoke Town Hall, we went into the nearby Glebe pub to a warm Stokie welcome (and a pint of Joule’s real ale), and from there went to the Rose of Kashmir for a curry followed by some hard-hitting input from local social workers and activists. Thanks to Sue Kent of BASW for organising this and for ensuring we heard from Kev Chesters, of the Midlands Association of Palliative Care Social Workers, Linda Holt of Keele University, Angela Glendenning and Jennifer Pardue about the imp...

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Day 2 - Thursday 20 April

Writing this blog post just after 10pm in the Rising Brook Baptist Church Centre, with my comrade 7-day walkers, drivers, and the film-maker with us for tonight and tomorrow, scattered around, talking over the day’s events, drinking tea, catching up with emails. A warm and supportive vibe is developing with each mile we walk together. Another 15 miles today, from Wolverhampton to Penkridge.

Another fantastic morning rally, on St Peters Square by Wolverhampton Civic Centre, where we were welcomed first by Julian Levitt, chair of the BASW Black Country branch and then by Wolverhampton Councillor, Mike Hardacre, who made a strong speech looking forward to the forthcoming election, which he said would be fought on the streets, and we are “going ...

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Day 1 - Wednesday 19 April

The 100 mile walk to Boot Out Austerity began today in great style. It had been exciting to read various tweets and emails the previous evening that showed the walkers converging on Birmingham from different parts of the country, and exciting too to receive messages of support and encouragement from all over the world, including Ireland, Spain, Canada, Poland and Romania.

We gathered at Wellesley House on Waterloo Street, soon to be BASW’s new head office, and as people were arriving we were treated to some fine political songs by Dave and Tim from the Banner Theatre, joined on some by one of the ‘7-day walkers’, Angi Naylor.

This might have been the moment that Angi first unveiled her song that soon all the walk...

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Supporting the Boot Out Austerity walkers

The Boot Out Austerity walkers will be on the roads of the Midlands and the North in less than 5 weeks time, and about 100 people have so far expressed their intention to join the walk at some point, which is just fantastic. Deciding when to join it is now going to be much easier, with the full details being on the website -

One of the bigger issues we are dealing with is how to provide accommodation for those walkers who need it, especially people walking consecutive days. We’ve put the call out for  BASW members to offer accommodation and we’re hugely appreciative of the people who have come forward so far. We are still ...

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Only connect

Testing out our Birmingham to Wolverhampton route on a blustery March day, it occurred to me how much of the southern half of #bootoutausterity will take me on a journey through my professional and personal past. Places I have worked, links to people I have met. Also many local references to my surname, suggesting distant associations with my family heritage.

Walking allows a closer connection to places than seeing them from a car window. It improves our physical health, supports our mental wellbeing, helps the local environment and enhances a sense of community. Many modern social work offices look like call centres, with workers spending long hours slumped over their laptops, their headsets clamped to their ears. In theory we're all better connect...

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Preparations have begun

Preparations have begun now in earnest for Boot Out Austerity! and the excitement is growing. We have a small planning group and lots of support from BASW staff, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to make such a splash of publicity with our 1st February launch. It will be great too to have the General Secretary of the Social Workers Union, John McGowan, walking with us all the way, as well as Angi Naylor of the SWU Executive. And yesterday I was delighted to hear from Ruth Stark, the President of the International Federation of Social Workers, that she will be walking on the first day, from Birmingham to Wolverhampton.

I recently walked most of the way from Widnes to Liverpool - it’s going to be important to us to check the route in adv...

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Social workers, service users and austerity - a common cause

(This was an article by Guy Shennan and Peter Unwin in the February issue of Professional Social Work)

Recent cuts under austerity measures mean that after decades of crucial secondary mental health services support I have now been ‘discharged’. Initially, I at least had some online guided support via the Big White Wall but even this has now been withdrawn after I reached my free six months usage limit. I would have to find £288 per year to keep this service going which is just unaffordable. The harsh reality as I enter older age is that I have no support to keep me well now except for the Samaritans...”

These are the words of Jean, a survivor of mental health difficulties and now of the cuts to...

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