Child welfare and inequality

Social work practice has its challenges and contradictions in a class society, so all the more reason to make meaningful connections between practice quality and social injustice. Hope, they say, is important not because a just society is easy to create – it is important because the struggle for social equality is valuable in itself. I recently had the opportunity to attend the launch of an anti-poverty practice framework for social work in Northern Ireland.

This framework seeks to build an understanding of material deprivation into all fields of social work practice. In themselves, new frameworks do not transform child welfare work that is driven by risk aversion and managerial constraints but this sort of re-thinking and commitment to a poverty-informed practice focus is a powerful beginning. It could and should be done here. The slide-show below (presented at the SWSD conference in Dublin) explores some of the questions we need to ask ourselves if we are to move from rhetoric to reality.

[slideshare id=105710667&doc=dublin2018-180713101822]





2 replies on “Child welfare and inequality”

Cheers David – yep, the Northern Irish framework is pretty compelling and practical. Basically risk saturated bureaucracies hinder social workers from connecting with the lived realities of the families that they work with – understanding other people in context: a context of power imbalance and inequality in our particular society that is. It is the old story really – recognizing the need to bring social work and a concern with systemic social injustice into child welfare, theory, policy and practice.

A better kind of child and family social work can be created and this sort of framework is a step in the right direction. The current plan to develop contracted, evidence-based and time-limited intensive intervention programs directed at those judged to be the most potentially dangerous is a very narrow and ideologically embedded approach. Oranga Tamarki could do a lot better than that and social work generally would benefit from looking at the world through a lens informed by an inequalities perspective. Have a look at the framework – gotta love those elephants!!!

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