7 thoughts on “Closet activism, covert workplace activity, and the social work voice?

  1. I know this post is over a year old but I have one question which has nagged at me ever since the CYFS reforms were announced. As a former (now ‘retired’) ‘first parent’ and, despite having witnessed some really negative outcomes for some people, personally, I had what were I now know quite positive relationships with my case workers, and had the best possible outcomes under the circumstances.
    I wonder , how do CYFS workers deal with the homelessness of families with children now? I looked up the long list of CYFS official ‘red flags’ for child abuse in families living in poverty for whatever reason is now as far as I can understand simple ‘poverty’ can now be classed as ‘child abuse’.
    This logical upshot of the ‘child centric’ social policy means a future where NZs governance authorities of whatever persuasion are under less obligation to house families as “families”; and therefore under less obligation to provide public housing at all…In this way the NZ government’s selective signatory to the UN Optional protocols could also help remove any obligation for provision of public housing within NZ? Children, people with disabilities and marginally the elderly may be entitled to some form of accommodation assistance but only as part of an overall welfare package to the local contracted NGO; not as of right. I see this in practice with the delegation of housing services to welfare NGOs and child foster services and the dismantling of more universal public housing…This must be music to the ears of real estate developers and suchlike Tell me please that I am mistaken? I hope I am…

  2. As an activist and Social Worker (I tend to think the two cannot be separated) I am happy to say that my employer knows and encourages my activities outside of my employment. During our monthly team meetings I have been able to discuss activities I have been involved in and how the issue being confronted affects our clients and society. Feedback from colleagues (and a yearning to learn more) has been fantastic. I am not sure I could work for an organisation that would see the need to push me into the closet.

  3. In terms of reprisals for those employed by the Government, I am reminded of the action against benefit cuts in the early ’90s – cuts that still affect our clients today. I can remember taking part in an ABC march (Against Benefit Cuts) when I was employed by CYPS , and being hauled over the coals by my manager – despite it being in my lunch break. She didn’t have a leg to stand on, and we should, as Jude points out, check the correct legal situation – not what our employer would like it to be. The PSA was very active at one time in advocating for clients’ interests as well as for social workers’, and good on them and Amy in SWAN for reviving that grand tradition.

  4. Kia ora Simon and thanks for your timely words on social action and suggestions. I agree that some organisational contexts are more constraining than others, but I also know that sometimes there are some misconceptions around what’s possible – especially in the public sector and from people who should know better. Within the last 18 months I asked an HR manager in the public sector what the position was on my appearing before a select committee to speak to a submission I had made about something unrelated to my current employer. I’d already checked the organisation’s code of conduct and found it a bit confusing but couldn’t see any clauses that prevented me from doing this but was told by HR that no, I definitely could not speak to a select committee in my own time. Just thought I would double check with the union who provided a really helpful annotated version of the organisation’s code and the SSC code of conduct explaining the situation. In fact, there was nothing in my organisation’s code of conduct that prevented me from speaking to a select committee – the HR person hadn’t bothered to find that out.
    This is not to say that life might not be made more difficult for workplace activists but it’s worth finding out exactly what the parameters are. At least then, if you know you have met the code, you can challenge any kickback. Our association and unions are good sources of support. For public sector employees this section of the SSC statement on impartiality is useful.http://www.ssc.govt.nz/node/1912. My understanding is that all public sector codes should be consistent with this code which is overarching.

    1. Thanks Jude for your comment and reminding us that there are different places from which we can gain support. Many people in their social work positions naturally become experts on their field of practice and should be encouraged, not discouraged from speaking out about their area of knowledge, skills and values. The process through which you went seems to have been affirming, I hope your words serve to encourage and empower other colleagues.

  5. I haven’t yet listened to the pod cast as fossicking around at 5.30 am for my ear phones may wake up my bed mate! And when I can, I’m interested to hear about this closet activism where the rules are bent so to avoid a more arbitrary response for our families. Anyway my thoughts went in a different direction…Generally I’m finding that I’m receiving NO/poor response from CYFs to the families that need a C&P response. Yes workload/capacity are in play here. And it worries me big time. And it leaves a NGO social worker like myself with the knowledge that the children in these families remain at risk.
    OK… Now, where are those earphones….

    1. Hi Carole, thanks for your response, I hope that you have now found your earphones and had a chance to listen to the podcast! Your concerns are valid and I think many people would support (even if it is ‘yet another’) a review of the intricacies of CYF work. The concerns with the current CYF Review are the not just about the nature of the so-called ‘expert panel’ but around what is the desired outcome of the panel. Happy listening.

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