Can Social Workers be divorced from politics? That was the question asked in a features article in this month’s edition of ‘Professional Social Work’ – the leading monthly magazine dedicated to the social work profession.
The article discussed the relationship between social worker and the state which is viewed by most social workers as largely parental. It also looked at how difficult it was for practitioners to make an impact in the political arena when they feel voiceless and when representations of social workers in the media remain predominantly pejorative.
Ray Jones, Professor of Social Work at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London says it is “absolutely crucial” that social workers are politically aware.
“Children and families and disabled people are all worse off thanks to government cuts” he said.
“And Social workers are being forced into a role that is focussed on social control, risk management and the rationing of resources. “Our work is shaped by the powerbrokers in Westminster and what we do is dictated by what they say” said Ray.
But Emma said it does not have to be this way – there is more that individuals and the profession can do to shape their destiny and to take back some control. And that is to become politically pro-active.
“All social workers care about society – they work hard every day to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in our communities so I think all are, by their very nature, politically engaged but I think many feel the system is against them and therefore don’t want to be part of it. But only by really participating can the change that is so desperately needed for social workers and the people they care for alike, happen.”
Emma believes social work is under attack by a Government that is trying to privatise the sector, just like they are trying to with education through academisation of schools and to the NHS which private companies now run large parts of.
She thinks the Government is getting away with ruining the social work profession because social workers are too exhausted with being over-worked and under-paid and so down-trodden and dispirited by the endless cuts, micro-management and lack of respect shown to their profession that they have little left in their energy banks to take on the fight to protect their occupation.
Emma worked as a social worker specialising in child protection before becoming an MP and is now one of only a handful of MPs that has first-hand experience of the profession. She is currently Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Abused and Neglected Children.
“Having worked as a social worker, I know just how much of your life, emotions and headspace you put into the job. It is highly demanding. It is difficult to find the time or the energy to take on anything extra-curricular as it were – even if it is related to your job.
I am lucky to be in a position where I can directly lobby the Government, raise questions in parliament and tackle the Prime Minister directly on these issues. I urge all social workers who are not happy about any aspect of their profession to contact their MPs and tell them about it. That is what your MP is there to do.
“It’s really important to join a relevant union too – especially if you don’t have time to devote to campaigning yourself because unions such as the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) campaign on your behalf to change policy at the heart of government. And influencing policy is the best way to achieve change and take on the Government who are hell-bent on denigrating the profession.”