Mending Gaps & Herding Cats

I recently attended the JSWEC (The Joint Social Work Education and Research Conference) at Canterbury Christ Church University. I was running a workshop with Helen Casey from the Open University. “Promoting the importance of human relationships through mending gaps between service users, carers, social work students and practitioners. A transformative model for social work education in the North East Social Work Alliance.” This is the Mend the Gap piece of work that we carried out last year with unaccompanied young people in Teesside and was a really key part of the message being delivered at the conference about new ways of delivering social work education.

There were delegates present from numerous other universities in the UK and international delegates. Lord Patel of Bradford spoke about his new role as the Chair of Social Work England, Lynn Romeo the Chief Social Worker for adults also spoke and Harry Venning who creates the hilarious comic strip Clare in the Community in the Guardian was present throughout the event to create a cartoon strip record of proceedings. This is a picture of Helen, Harry and I with his cartoon of Teaching Partnerships – herding cats!!

It was an interesting and lively event, although with perhaps not as many participants as I expected. However Lord Patel was very reassuring, human and approachable and talked a great deal about making sure that social work practice is grounded in the needs of service users. Social Work England has an important strand of work that is being developed with service users and carers and it was very encouraging to hear about their strong commitment to the involvement of service users.

I was disappointed that the conference organisers response to people in the audience who were struggling to hear presenters. We were told if we couldn’t hear to ‘come and sit at the front’….rather than presenters taking responsibility themselves for using the microphones that were readily available,. It didn’t feel like a very inclusive approach that was in keeping with social work values. Such a shame!

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