Boot Out Austerity!
Social Workers Walking for Social Justice

Between 19th and 25th April, a group of social workers and supporters walked the 100 miles from Birmingham to Liverpool, arriving the day before the British Association of Social Workers’ Annual General Meeting and Conference there. The aim was to highlight the devastating effects of austerity measures and call for their end.

The walk had a big impact, including on the walkers themselves, who are now determined to continue campaigning against austerity and for social justice.

We welcome all those who share these aims to join us. If you are interested in doing this, or just want to know more, please contact Guy Shennan, BASW Chair:

The important thing is to keep fighting, and to fight with care, love, respect, and a passion for justice

(This was an article by Guy Shennan and Peter Unwin in the October 2017 issue of Professional Social Work)

Last April, BASW proved social work activism is not dead with its Boot Out Austerity walk. Six months on, their blisters fully healed, BASW chair Guy Shennan and social work lecturer Dr Peter Unwin, who took part in the walk, reflect on the journey travelled and the lessons learned

Austerity has been with us in the UK for almost a decade now. In February’s issue of Professional Social Work we wrote an article drawing attention to the effects it was having on service users and carers across the UK – and upon the ability of social workers to carry out their jobs effectively. We highlighted how austerity p...

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Are you registered to vote?

One of the activities that has been engaging Boot Out Austerity walkers and supporters since the walk has been encouraging people to register to vote - see the flyer we have produced elsewhere on the website. We believe it is especially important that young people are registered to vote, and use their vote, so that they feel they have a stake in society. Social workers and others who work with young people are in a good position to help them to register, as this blog post by Kirk Lewis shows.

With the general election looming in the not too distant future there is a tangible opportunity to steer the ship of social justice towards creating a more fair and equal society. The election also gives professionals a rare opportunity to take the wheel a...

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We need to change child protection to boot out austerity

The theme for the day on Saturday 22 April was international perspectives on austerity and social work. One of the evening presenters, Professor Andy Bilson, had recently been to Malta, and so was able to tell us about the progressive - and successful -alternative to austerity implemented by their government. He led up to this with some fascinating thoughts about the relationship between austerity and children and families social work. Here is the blog post that Andy kindly provided us with that summarised his points.

Few would doubt that the wide range of cuts in services and increasing child poverty due to austerity policies has reduced children’s well-being. Our current approach to child protection is a factor in this because of its in...

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The walk came to its end as we arrived on the Pier Head and joined the crowd of supporters, social workers, BASW members and staff who were there waiting to greet us.

There was more to come though, first that evening and then the following morning. We had a stirring arrival rally, addressed by a mixture of local activists and social work organisations, which I will but briefly mention. It was fitting that the first person to speak was Ste Weatherhead, a psychologist now based in Liverpool, who had been the originator of Walk The Talk 2015, the psychologists’ walk that had been the immediate inspiration for Boot Out Austerity. It was great to finally meet Ste and I look forward to a deepening collaboration with our friends in psychology as well as ...

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Day 7 - Tuesday 25 April

What a day. A beautifully sunny morning in Runcorn, and while Malcolm went to collect Steph in his car, the 7-day walkers travelled together in Willie’s van to the Runcorn Town Hall rendevous, with the Poet Austeriate, who had returned yesterday, happily in our midst. A journey I will never forget, as we sang You’ll Never Walk Alone, being led in signing it as well as singing by Christine, and we almost took the roof of the van off. A special shared moment among people who had shared the week, roads and canal tow paths together.

We positioned ourselves near the Reception of Runcorn Town Hall, and were delighted when new walkers joined us one by one, including Michael Lavalette of Liverpool Hope University, who spoke on behalf of the...

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Day 6 - Monday 24 April

The Bull Ring in Northwich was a great spot for our morning rally, right by the town bridge, one of Northwich’s swing bridges over the River Weaver. The 7-day walkers were boosted as ever by the arrival of new walkers, and it was great that two of these were colleagues from psychology, fitting given the inspiration for Boot Out Austerity from the psychologists’ Walk the Talk in 2015. We started with the Poet Austeriate’s daily poem, and were later joined by the bard himself, who is with us now for the last two days.

We were also joined by two local Councillors from Cheshire West and Chester Council, Sam Naylor and Paul Dolan, and a councillor from Northwich Town Council. Councillor Paul Dolan is the Cabinet Member for adult social care...

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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 2017 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 cu...

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