SWU Ambassadors

SWU Ambassadors are exceptional individuals who promote the Social Workers Union (SWU), social
work, and social workers. These individuals have embraced the spirit of SWU and are involved with
promoting SWU’s values and campaigns. The Ambassador appointments – made by the SWU Executive
Committee – last for two years with the possibility of renewal.

Speaking about the new Ambassadors who began their roles in October 2021, SWU General Secretary
John McGowan said, “This is the second time we have reached out for Ambassadors to represent the
union and it builds on recent recruits such as Dr Neil Thompson and Professor Jermaine Ravalier. The
union continues to grow every day as the only specialist union for social workers and our new
ambassadors are well placed to share all the positive work we do with a range of audiences. The calibre
of these recent recruits once more emphasises the important place we have as one of the largest
growing specialist unions in the UK, which is a feat we have achieved in a relatively short time frame.”

Meet Our Ambassadors

Emma Louise Lewell-Buck

Photo of Emma Lewell Buck MP

Emma Louise Lewell-Buck is a Labour Party MP and is South Shields’ first female MP. Prior to becoming an MP, Emma was a child protection social worker and a Cabinet member for adult social services in her local authority. She joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty and in 2017 introduced a Private Members’ Bill – the Food Insecurity Bill – that sought to require the Government to monitor and report on food insecurity.

Emma has expressed concern about the large number of children in care and how government cuts to support services has contributed to this, saying, “The government is missing valuable opportunities to keep children in the care of their families. Not only does that add pressure to budgets already decimated by austerity, it also leaves children and their families with deep and enduring emotional scars.”

Emma spoke at the SWU Fringe 2019 event in Manchester with a message of solidarity and support for social workers. She closed her speech by saying, “Despite this Government’s best efforts, the profession survives. Excellent social work happens every single day in all areas of our country. Children and adults are protected from harm and their lives are improved. I want to thank you all for what you do. I am proud to be a social worker.”

Professor Jermaine Ravalier

Image of Professor Jermaine Ravalier

Professor Jermaine Ravalier is a Professor in Organisational Psychology and Social Justice at Bath Spa University and the Director of Programmes at What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC). He also leads the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) convened group researching the impact of the working environment on social workers.

Jermaine’s research interests are in organisational and health psychology, with a focus on how the workplace can be improved in order to help maintain positive mental health and prevent work-related mental health sickness absence. The majority of his research to date has been on the social work workforce – looking at conditions which contribute to poorer physiological and psychological health, and approaches which could be taken to improve upon this.

Jermaine first partnered with SWU and British Association of Social Workers (BASW) in 2017/2018 to undertake research into social worker wellbeing across the UK. The research findings showed that coordinated action is needed to improve social workers’ working conditions across the UK to enable social workers to thrive, to prevent burn out and loss of staff, particularly from statutory roles. This finding is not new, but this research evidence helps define the changes social workers need. Social workers and stakeholders were further consulted to develop the Social Worker Wellbeing and Working Conditions Good Practice Toolkit (2020) which was published in 2020.

Dr Neil Thompson

Image of Dr Neil Thompson

Dr Neil Thompson is a social worker who established himself as a leading thinker in the field and continues to play a role in shaping social work theory and practice. Neil has a wide range of interests, but the linking thread is well-being. His social work career helped him to appreciate the significance of individual and social well-being, but his more recent work has focused on workplace well-being, recognising the importance of tackling stress, bullying and harassment, conflict, discrimination and related matters. These interests are underpinned by a passion for helping people learn.

He holds qualifications in social work, training and development, mediation and alternative dispute resolution, and management (MBA) as well as a first-class honours degree in social sciences, a doctorate (PhD), and a higher doctorate (DLitt). Neil has held full or honorary professorships at four UK universities. In 2010 Neil was awarded a higher doctorate (a Doctor of Letters or DLitt) by Keele University in recognition of his status as an established authority in the field of well-being. In 2011 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by BASW Cymru, the Wales branch of the British Association of Social Workers. He is also a member of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement of which membership is by invitation only and for recognised leaders in the field.

Harry Venning

Image of Harry Venning 2021-10-18 SWU Ambassador Award

Harry Venning is an award-winning cartoonist, illustrator, and comedy writer best known for creating the Clare in the Community cartoon strip following the life of a social worker and a BBC Radio 4 sitcom starring Sally Phillipps. He has won UK Cartoon Art Trust Strip Cartoonist of the Year and the Sony Radio Comedy Award.

How impoverished the British social work scene would be without his superb artwork and rich sense of humour! A weekly contributor to THE GUARDIAN with the CLARE IN THE COMMUNITY strip, his work
TIMES, THE STAGE, and RADIO TIMES as well as publications in Canada, Switzerland, South Africa,
and New Zealand – plus books, lots of books. Harry is also a member of the exclusive CARTOONIST
CLUB OF GREAT BRITAIN with work displayed in the Cartoon Museum, London.