Prospects for social work in Aotearoa New Zealand: Segmentation or solidarity?

 A  guest post by David Kenkel

Like many social workers, I’ve been following the debate about forcible data collection and the design of what look likely to be very interventionist approaches by the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children/Oranga Tamariki.  I’ve wondered why a large proportion of New Zealand citizens apparently approve of strategies being applied to others they would hate to have applied to themselves? In thinking about this I’m drawn to the whakataukī: There, but for the grace of God, go I. I like this saying because it captures a vision of solidarity and community. It reminds me that the differences between my life and the lives of others are mostly to do with accidents of history. It’s a way of acknowledging that the good or bad fortune of ourselves and our neighbours are as much to do with the lottery of social circumstances, as our own individual efforts. In the aftermath of the Great Depression, I suspect it was a similar vision, that drove Michael Joseph Savage and the first Labour Government of New Zealand, to introduce the Social Security Act 1938, establishing the first social security system in the world (Silloway-Smith, 2010). The economic circumstances of the time made it clear that the wellbeing of each was inextricably linked to the wellbeing of all.

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