When seeking to understand the performance of Oranga Tamariki (OT) it is important to be mindful of the context. Statutory child protection practice is challenging (and sometimes very rewarding) work that is often carried out by hard working and highly skilled social workers. Currently the work occurs within a risk-averse hierarchical bureaucracy which often tends not to provide the required level of support for good decision making in complex situations. Support for careful whānau and tamariki-centred social work is found in well supervised and resourced practice teams where uncertainty is recognised, responsibility is shared and where capable social workers are nurtured.
This guest blog is by: Dr Lynda Shevellar, (Lecturer in Community Development, The University of Queensland), Peter Westoby, (Associate Professor of Social Science and Community Development, Queensland University of Technology), and Dr Athena Lathouras, (Senior Lecturer in Social Work, University of Sunshine Coast).
“I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal”
– Supertramp “The Logical Song”, 1979
“Watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical’” sang the English progressive rock band Supertramp in the late 1970s, echoing the way that the word “radical” is so often used to arouse ideas of extremism and instability. And given the recent tragic events in New Zealand – and in so many places around the globe – some might question the timing of this reflection. We could all be forgiven for shying away from a call for more radicalism and inviting a gentler framing for our activities. However, a closer interrogation of a radical agenda, and its place in community development, suggests that more rather than less radicalism may be just what social work in the Antipodes needs, and most particularly in these heartbreaking times.
The following is a personal reflection on the week that has passed. It is – of course – so very difficult to comprehend the bloody horror that erupted in Christchurch on March 15. Waves of shock, disbelief, anger, sadness are rolling through our communities as we all struggle to make sense of this event. Those of us at the edge can only imagine the unfolding grief of those at the centre who have lost friends and kin. There are no adequate words still. Perhaps there never will be. Aroha mai.
To our comrades and friends in Aotearoa and abroad. Our hearts are broken. We stand with, and grieve with, our Muslim brothers and sisters. There is a lot to say about what happened in our community this weekend. But not today. Today, we have no words, only tears.
A Guest post by David Kenkel
Trigger warning: this post discusses bleak likelihoods that are painful to consider. The unmentioned backdrop to social work’s future is that the world has passed an ecological crisis point of no return and there is little chance that near-term catastrophe can be averted (see Bendall, 2018). This is a situation that the western world has not yet begun to face. This is a post about hope. Not hope that we can avert the coming environmental predicament, but hope that as communities face inevitable crisis, they will rediscover collective solidarity and wiser ways of living together. Social work can have a key role in this transition back to sanity.
A guest post by Kendra Cox and Eileen Joy, University of Auckland
On February 25th, Tracey Martin, the Minister for Internal Affairs, announced that the much-anticipated Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill (‘the Bill’) has been parked until further notice. The Bill contains, among other small changes to deaths and divorces, a number of amendments to the current Act that would make it significantly easier for transgender, non-binary, gender diverse, and intersex people (‘gender diverse and intersex people’) to change the sex marker on their birth certificate to better reflect who they are. According to a Parliamentary press release, the Bill was deferred to clarify some legal concepts and to increase public consultation. There has been some talk over the fact that after public consultation—a standard select committee process—the specific section relating to sex self identification was added. This type of addition (specifically ss22A-J), after public consultation is completely normal, and reflects a democratic process whereby the committee responded to a large number of submissions who requested this change.
The Labour-led coalition government has provided some relative respite from the overt demonising of those who are excluded from what Simon Bridges describes as the “Kiwi way of life”. This way of life, it seems, is epitomised by tax-free speculation in the private rental property market. Is this our communal cultural lode-stone? Unfettered profits from investment in rental properties? Really? Do we really all hold a sacred place for what is a fundamentally exploitative, unequal and unfair practice? Give me strength! It has been pleasant to have a break from all that banality about “good” mum and dad “Kiwis”which John Key was so fond of. The interests of the good Kiwis that Bridges has been talking about are in fact the interests of a privileged class of people. Conservative political parties have erroneously conflated the interests of private property owners with the well-being of us all since early colonial land grab times. It is the cornerstone of political Liberalism after all (Duncan, 2007). It is high time to stop milking the politics of fear in the golf clubs of an imaginary middle New Zealand Simon.
A further guest post by John Darroch
Just over a week ago I became aware of significant changes to the Social Work Registration Legislation Bill which I found deeply alarming. These changes are contained in a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) which was introduced into the House by Carmel Sepuloni on 21 December 2018. I wrote a blog post drawing attention to a range of risks I believed the Bill contained.
A guest post by Justin Canty
John Darroch’s recent post raises a number of crucial questions about the recently released Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) to the draft amendments to the Social Worker Registration Act. Within the SOP appears another ‘SoP’ – scopes of practice – as a method for identifying and circumscribing who and what is subject to the Act. In this contribution to the discussion, Justin Canty presents some further questions about the nature of scopes of practice and their application in the proposed amendments.
When I started work in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2007, I found myself surrounded by discussions of scopes of practice. Many mental health social workers were confronting the flow on effects from the HPCA Act and efforts by various professional groups to carve out ‘restricted practices’ which only that professional group performed. The core of the interprofessional tension in the mental health context was psychosocial interventions. Who “owned” those? Which profession could claim them as their sole province? This was of especial concern for social workers as the only profession working in mental health not covered by HPCAA.
Jumping forward a decade and a bit, we find ourselves in a new struggle over the uses of scopes of practice and being recognised for what we do as social workers.
A guest post by Amy Ross
Amy Ross writes a response to John Darroch’s article “New supplementary order paper fundamentally changes social work registration bill – and should not proceed”.
Any registration of any profession by the state carries risk. The state has an appalling history of allowing atrocities to be undertaken by ‘officials’ and ‘professionals’ with the backing of the law. Therefore, registration for social work should of course be undertaken with vigilance and we need to ensure that implementing any legislation is done by us and does not erode the core principles of social work or allow the state to define our theoretical or ethical basis.
The first iteration of the Social Work Registration Bill tabled as a last act by Anne Tolley and the National Government posed enormous challenges to the future of our profession. The Social Work Community swung into action. There was a huge number of submissions (see the PSA one here) and an open letter petition that caught the attention of the new Minister Carmel Sepuluoni.