Mar
07
2017
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 connected but in reality we can become isolated as services fragment. Informal support and team cohesion can suffer from "hot desking". Although we recognise the need for "agile working" in the 21st century, this can mean social work becomes an almost entirely sedentary and solitary occupation.

One way we can help to counter this sense of isolation is to re-connect with our professional colleagues. The recent surge in interest in BASW branch activities, with new branches springing up across the UK, is indicative of this. We can also rediscover the activism that brought many of us to social work in the first place. With political systems in disarray around the world, professional associations like BASW can become vibrant and relevant pressure groups, building alliances with other organisations, service users and carers. Quashing the "exemption" clause of the current Children and Social Work Bill is a great example.

We need to stay vigilant to the many threats to social justice and community cohesion that are out there. None of these is greater than the impact of austerity policies that have already lasted longer than the second world war. Pulling on our walking boots to cover the 100 miles from Birmingham to Liverpool we will learn much more of this as we promote our aim to boot out austerity. We will hear from some of the people most affected and also about the great social work that continues to be done, even in times of adversity. We'll doubtless learn more about ourselves and the journey will become part of our own narrative.

In addition, we will be stretching our muscles and taking on a physical challenge. As we go we will build fellowship with colleagues and connect with each other. If you can join us for a day or a mile, do so. If you can't, follow us on social media or come along to one of the varied evening meetings we will hold along the route. See the BASW website for branch events you can join in support of #bootoutausterity. Not everyone wants to join a committee or a Policy Practice and Education Group. We aim to offer many different ways members can link with the association and each other. The walk is one of these. Together we can do more, so let's connect, be active and live in fragments no longer.

Jon Dudley

Chair, BASW Finance and Human Resources Committee