Who defines social work? In defence of the global definition

The following is the response of the Re-Imagining Social Work Collective to the call for comments and suggestions by the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board on their definition of ‘social work’ and proposed scope of practice.

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‘Disguised compliance’ – innocent shorthand term or jargon hiding a powerful discourse?

In a recent twitter storm (or perhaps more accurately, a surge)  there was a great exchange of ideas between Aotearoa and UK social workers, lawyers and service user advocates  on the topic of the term ‘disguised compliance’ in child protection. We say ‘surge’ because it was a powerful and constructive exchange rather than the sometimes personal, incoherent and bitter fights that can erupt in that forum.

The discussion itself was prompted by an article ‘Disguised Compliance – Or Undisguised Nonsense‘ written by an English lawyer Paul Hart critiquing the term on two counts: that it doesn’t really describe what it attempts to (that it should be called ‘disguised NON compliance’) and that, more worryingly, it’s used in a kind of medical diagnosis way to describe almost any kind of hesitance or reluctance to engage on the part of people engaged with child protection services. In some cases, its power as an interpretive lens has become so broad that it can put people in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ position where almost anything they do is viewed suspiciously. Another article ‘We need to rethink our approach to disguised compliance‘ by David Wilkins similarly expressed concern about how commonplace the term had become , not just in “relation to (suspected or actual) manipulation or intent to deceive. Rather, it can be used as a catch-all term in relation to almost any signs of resistance or even just ambivalence on the part of the parent”.

On the other hand, active manipulation of facts can obscure what is actually happening for a child. Anyway, one of the main players in this discussion, Jadwiga Leigh, has put the various threads of this discussion into the neat Storify page below.

 

We are curious to know in our Aotearoa New Zealand  context – do practitioners here see it being used in the same way? Is it used too widely here? Or has it maintained its specific usage and is generally helpful?

Social work and social investment: Fear and loathing in Aotearoa

The so-called social investment strategy being implemented by the current Government is based on a narrow individualised analysis of the causes of poor social outcomes. The intent is to spend some money on problem people now in order to reduce social costs in the future. The specific focus is on reducing the long term cost of benefits and prisons.

Like much ideologically loaded social policy there is a strong superficial appeal. Social service workers are familiar with the idea that social deficits can be inter-generationally reproduced and that the traumatic effects of violence and abuse can echo down the generations. It is a short step from this insight to accepting the idea that we need to fix these people – efficiently and effectively, once and for all.

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Supporting an inquiry into abuse in state care

By Elizabeth Stanley

Over the last few months, the NZ government has faced multiple demands for independent inquiries: to uncover alleged war crimes undertaken by NZ military forces against Afghani civilians, to acknowledge NZ women who were forced to have their new-borns adopted, and to understand the experiences of the thousands who endured abuse within NZ’s state care system. To all these victims, the government’s response has been ‘no’, ‘go away’.

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The politics of saying sorry: Making good on intentions

In Aotearoa’s sister nation of Canada, there is a government appointed body called The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was set up in 2008 to document the experiences of children who lived in residential schools in Canada between 1883 and 1996. Its mandate was to fully report the truth of what happened to the 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children who attended these schools – to tell of the abuse inflicted upon many of them at the hands of the state and the church.

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Social work and the chimes of freedom flashing: Some thoughts on future change

If we are serious about developing new visions for social work – rethinking how we can work in ways that change the oppressive relationships that structure the lives of people – we need to find strategies that do more than alter the behaviour of individuals. However, social work is not a free-floating activity which we can shape at will.

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