Reading about the removal of Covid safety precautions brought to the front of my mind that social/care work is an expression of concern for others. It is ‘me’ taking my personal responsibility for others, acting on the understanding that ’we’ are all in this together.
Bad things happen to good people through no fault of their own. Many have safety nets, many do not. Unequal societies are bad for everyone, individuals face more and multiple problems not of their making, and as a society resources must be deployed to meet the conditions that we have, whilst being inattentive, created. The learning taken is to address inequality in all its forms, addressing deprivation, addressing disadvantage. Personal self-interest meets societal social interest.
Social work is not a matter of individual decision making. By emphasising individual responsibility a government would abdicate its responsibility and would be doing so on behalf of us. Being on your own is not social work.
If we are really believing we are to live in a meritocracy then ‘we’ must ensure ‘our’ government takes all measures for us all to start from the same place to see who will do best. This means doing something about poverty and privilege. It means taking action to ensure a facilitating social environment, and that means economic as well as educational as well as cultural as well as psychological as well as emotional; this list can go on. What is surprising is how willing we have been to curtail the list and narrow our ambitions.
It’s about the environment we grow up in, our family, our community, being resourced to facilitate the healthy development of ‘us all’. This is social work.
Part of that social work is having services and supports for when life events get challenging. It’s about society expressing its compassion, and community, through having open access rather than have scarcity and rationing through procedures or thresholds.
This is not the same as doing away with bureaucracy. It is about having needs-led and funded services that are attuned and attentive to the needs of their community. About having the knowledge, skills, and experience ready to respond as local as possible and specialist as necessary.
A situation is not made better by an absence of rules, there is a tyranny in structurelessness. Doing away with bureaucracy is not building the resilient community, it keeps the powerful gaining over and usually from the powerless. An ethic of social work is to stand alongside the oppressed. This means social work demands acting ‘on’ government, saying what needs to be done, as well as ‘on behalf of’, doing what can be done. This is an ethical professional responsibility exercised by ‘me’ for the benefit of ‘we’.
NCERCC recommends reading Frontiers | Facilitating Collective Psychosocial Resilience in the Public in Emergencies: Twelve Recommendations Based on the Social Identity Approach | Public Health (frontiersin.org). It is vital reading for the Care Review as it seems to be approaching its task as the creation of a new social identity. Its Case for Change is about a new set of norms, values, interests, and emotions concerning social work/care alongside acceptance of a neoliberal society. In its new proposed formulation, the idea of ‘social’ is diminished, even a new concept of family support is introduced that does not use the term social work. It has potential to shift social work/care from collaboration to consumerism. A critical review of the Case for Change using the methods outlined in the paper will provide significant insights. It may mean a redefining its task: preparedness, plan tom work with, prioritise relationship, be participative – work ‘bottom up’ not ‘top down’, ‘prioritise public autonomy over command and control’.
Social identity is addressing is defined as “that part of an individual’s self-concept which derives from his [sic] knowledge of his [sic] membership of a social group (or groups) together with the emotional significance attached to that membership.” When we define ourselves in terms of particular identities we strive to enact and express the associated norms, values, interests, and emotions. These can be individual and socially limiting as we as expansive and supportive. That’s the choice we are faced with in the questions posed by the Care Review.
“What authorities and relevant professional groups assume about the social psychology of people in emergencies shapes policy and practice in preparedness, response, and recovery. How we view our social identity matters creates the overarching framework for collective supportive. Important is to facilitate collective psychosocial resilience, the shared identity that the expression and expectation of solidarity and cohesion, and thereby to coordinate and draw upon collective sources of support”. Accessing or providing social work is never an individual decision.