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Students concern inspire Student-led-Conference

Published: Tue 26 Mar 2013
Students concern inspire Student-led-Conference

A group of students from the Division of Social Work and Social Care, after recognizing some of the main social concerns facing young people in the region, decided to look for answers by organizing Conference on 'Tackling Poverty in Bradford: Can Social Work and Social Care Influence Change?'

It is expected that Bradford will be acutely affected by the current Government’s austerity measures. We are facing the largest cuts to public services in over 80 years. In Bradford 37,000 youngsters are already living below the poverty line, the national average is 1 in 5, in some wards of Bradford the ratio of children in poverty is 1 in 2. The government and media rhetoric seems to place some of the blame for our economic woes on those in receipt of benefits.

In November 2012 a group of 1st year Social Work and Working With Children and Families students met together to plan an event which provides a platform to highlight serious issues associated with poverty in Bradford. We decided on a conference: ‘Tackling Poverty in Bradford: Can Social Work and Social Care Influence Change?’ which took place in Student Central on 27th February 2013. This conference involved a whole afternoon of activities, three expert speakers and a question and answer session with 3 panellists, including Sue Balcomb, Director of England Oxfam’s UK Poverty Program. Cindy Peek, Bradford Deputy Director of Children's Services, was our first speaker, Cindy highlighted poverty issues distinct to Bradford. Our second speaker, Neal Heard, from Bradford Alliance for Community Care, called for community action to fight the cuts. Our last speaker, Dr. Michael Lavalette, form the Social Work Action Network and Associate Professor of Social Work at Liverpool Hope University, gave an impassioned speech calling for strong resistance and campaigning from the social work profession to show we do not accept TINA - 'There Is No Alternative' -  to austerity.

Social Work student, Richard Joy managed the arrangements with our guests. He and Sarah Green set up an email account for the event, a Facebook page and Twitter account. None of us had ever arranged a conference before. Two SSIS lecturers, Geraldine Graham (Social Work) and Lucy Cockburn (Working With Children, Young People and Families) gave us guidance on from the start where  we had to decide what our event would be, it's focus and how to bring it together. We each took on individual and small group tasks. We asked work contacts, local services, national charities, other schools and academics if they would be interested in providing workshops on specific issues or if they would like to hold an information stall in Student Central. Kelly Pleasants and Jody Bates brought together over 10 Bradford front-line charity stalls for the event which set up in the Mall for the whole afternoon.

Jody and Kelly also created a 'Social Exclusion' workshop and organised the other four workshops with Sarah Green and Becky Grimshaw. Jamie Littlewood and Joanne Bird co-presented a workshop on 'Money Matters', looking at guidance for responsible budgeting options. The other workshops were hosted by professional and voluntary services and topics included topics homelessness, radical social work and front-line interventions with children and families. It took four months of background work from many students including Mandy Jackson, Kelly Wheeler and Amy Haswell to bring the event together.  Everything from advertising to parking zones was given careful consideration. Other students volunteered on the day, helping to greet and direct over 140 attendees.It was a great group effort and an inspiring day.

We would like to sincerely thank the University of Bradford for allowing us to hold the event and would also like to thank everybody who participated. Our conference proved that with integrated cooperation between services and voluntary community-led agencies, poverty truly can be 'tackled'.

If you are concerned about how the austerity is affecting your family or community there is practical help and support. You can receive advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), The Job Centre Plus and the trade union, Unite, who have created a 'Unite Community' group. Your local Community Centre may have support groups and your council website will have links to services and volunteering schemes in your area. You can also contact us by searching for 'Tackling Poverty' on Facebook or Twitter. Together we can create positive change.