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 advance as we won’t really have the time to get lost when doing it for real. It was a useful reconnaissance mission, as we now plan to stop in Runcorn at the end of the sixth day. That will mean that we walk over the Mersey across the Runcorn Bridge early on the morning of 25th April, before turning left along the Mersey Way, and I’m looking forward to the sun shining on us and on the iron bridge as we stride across it.
Next week I am going to head north again, to wall over three days, from Runcorn to Stoke. That’s right, I’ll be covering that part of the route back to front, so that I end up in Stoke on the Thursday, the day of the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election. And in that event the reasons we are doing this walk will come right to the fore. Stoke has been hit hard by austerity, having suffered huge cuts since 2010. And still it keeps coming, with a number of children’s centres currently planned to close. The stakes are high for those people affected the worst by austerity in particular, in any parliamentary contest. What will the new MP’s position be on austerity and will they be a voice for social justice in Westminster? It is a question I’m asking all the candidates and will await their responses with interest.
Let me finish this blog post with a shout out to my friends in the psychology profession. The idea for the walk came to me when reading about a walk that group of psychologists did in 2015, called Walk The Talk, from Leicester to London - in an article by the inspiring group, Psychologists Against Austerity (check out their website). Thanks to them, some of whom we hope will be with us to boot out austerity in April.
Guy Shennan - BASW Chair