Where has my radicalism gone? Revisited (again!)

This is a guest post from Lauren Bartley

Over the last few years, I have contributed a couple of blogs to Reimagining Social Work, reflecting on the grief I felt at losing my sense of radicalism once I started working as a social worker. You can read those blogs here and here, but a quick rehash: throughout my degree, I became pretty disillusioned by how little focus contemporary social work placed on social justice. It seemed that social work was more about putting plasters on people, and adjusting people to their circumstances, rather than trying to change those circumstances. I had created a name for myself as a bit of a radical and got pretty fired up in my classes and assignments about what social workers should really be doing. And then I got my first social work job, and reality hit. Workload, time constraints, and organisational suppression of anything remotely political meant that I was really restrained in what I could do, and I quickly felt my sense of radicalism slipping away.

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Mental health services in Aotearoa: A system in constant crisis

This blog post is extracted from a recent editorial of the journal Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work written by Neil Ballantyne and Liz Beddoe. The editorial extract refers to a commentary in the journal by Genevieve Smith and Joanna Appleby.


In their commentary on the “Social work practice implications of upcoming mental health reforms”, Genevieve Smith and Joanna Appleby offer an informative account of the key challenges for mental health services and for people experiencing mental distress in Aotearoa New Zealand. They contextualise their discussion with reference to the impact of four decades of neoliberal reforms on our people and on our health and social services—reforms that have fostered deep economic inequality, racism, precarity and despair in the lives of the many (see, also, the review of Ferguson, 2017 in this issue). These reforms have devastated mental health services through underfunding, service rationing and managerial business models that alienate service users, pressurise frontline workers and fracture service provision. Smith and Appleby explore four challenges faced by those who would reform mental health services: the steady growth in demand for services along with the severity of presenting problems, the failure to maintain or increase the supply of services leading to issues with service accessibility, the postcode lottery of service variability between the 20 District Health Boards, and staff retention and burnout (partly a product of the first two challenges).

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Social work and the un-justice system

This is a guest post from Bex Rillstone. Bex graduated the MSW(P) Programme, University of Auckland, in 2018. She has worked as a housing social worker in South Auckland and as a Family Start social worker with a kaupapa Māori NGO. Bex now works in a male prison, delivering rehabilitation programmes. She also sits on the Labour Party Justice Policy Committee, advocating for changes within the Justice and Corrections systems.

I have been working in a men’s prison for almost two years now. There is something unsettling about working within a Justice system that remains so fundamentally unjust. Many people have asked me why I choose this line of work. The answer is that I purposely chose to move towards my fear rather than away from it. I already knew, from international research and national recidivism rates, that the prison system doesn’t work – for perpetrators or for victims.

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Education for people in prison: How, why and what’s the point?

In the latest RSW podcast Emily Keddell interviews Fairleigh Gilmour, an academic in Gender studies and Criminology at the University of Otago. Fairleigh has run a volunteering programme into the Milton prison for a number of years, after discovering how few students in her criminology classes had ever been into a prison. Her programmes involve recruiting and training students to develop their own classes and run them for men in the local prison.

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The Prevention Project – a conversation with Emily Keddell

In this episode, Deb Stanfield interviews Emily Keddell (University of Otago, Aotearoa New Zealand) for the RSW collective. Emily speaks to The Prevention Project: Supporting Whānau and Reducing Baby Removals, a project undertaken with colleagues Luke Fitzmaurice and Kerri Cleaver. 
Emily explains the background to the project and shares its key findings, which include the important mediating role of community social workers and other professionals, the value of a poverty-informed perspective, and the role of community building initiatives to improve social networks of whānau. Improving the pathways into, and availability of, early, intensive, culturally responsive services and enabling a whole of whānau orientation to practice are key promoters of preventing entry to care. 

Devolving power and resources to build the availability of such services, particularly by Māori, for Māori services, was suggested as a way to help build the capacity of these kinds of services. Whānau involved with Oranga Tamariki around the time of birth reported the trusting, non-judgemental and supportive relationships with community-based workers, and focussing on intrinsic motivating factors such as love for children, helped them navigate Oranga Tamariki intervention, and their own personal struggles, to retain care.

Dissenting Social Work – a conversation with Paul Michael Garrett

In this podcast episode, Ian Hyslop interviews Paul Garrett of NUI (National University of Ireland, Galway) for the RSW Collective. Paul is a much read and respected theorist and writer in relation to the political context of social work and its implications for education and practice futures. Dr Garrett discusses his recent response to the provocative ‘end of social work’ critique offered by Chris Maylea.

While acknowledging the difficulties associated with critical practice he suggests that social work does not sit outside of the tensions facing the liberal capitalist system globally. Referring to Gramsci’s notion of ‘conjunctures’ he points to climate change, uneven social suffering, the geopolitical unrest which is fuelling a refugee and migrant crisis, and the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Add to this the political resurgence of the populist right (and unprecedented potential for state surveillance) and we indeed are living at a challenging cross roads. Garrett argues that we can not choose to live apart from these structuring realities – but that where there is power and reaction there is resistance and solidarity. As workers and social citizens there is, as there always has been, a different world to be won. Dissent is a necessity.

 

 

What is social policy?

This is an RSW experiment in providing resources for the educational commons that are freely available to all using creative commons licensing.

In this case we are releasing a podcast interview. Neil Ballantyne (Open Polytechnic of New Zealand) interviews Liz Beddoe (University of Auckland) about the social policy text she edited with Jane Maidment (Maidment & Beddoe, 2016). Neil asks Liz three questions:

  • What is social policy?
  • What is unique about social policy in Aotearoa?
  • Why do social work students need to study social policy?

Post a comment to let us know what you think and tell us if we should create more resources like this one.

This podcast is copyright RSW Collective and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You are free to download it and embed it in your own teaching and learning resources, so long as you attribute it to “RSW Collective (2021, January) https://www.reimaginingsocialwork.nz/2021/01/what-is-social-policy/”

Reference

Maidment, J. & Beddoe, L. (Eds.) (2016). Social Policy for social work and human services in Aotearoa New Zealand: Diverse perspectives. University of Canterbury Press.

Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Podcast music: cello pizz 01 by Morusque (c) copyright 2019 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. 

Goodbye to 2020

A disturbing year of disruption and trouble is drawing in. Summer sunshine is wrapping us in light once again as we take breath for the road ahead. We have been so lucky of course and those of us who would live in more equal and compassionate ways, are hoping – as we must – that better collective futures will be built and that lessons will be learned. We live in daunting and exciting times which call for solidarity, courage and care – a valuing of the gifts we all bring and a sharing of the burdens we carry. The following is a mix of thoughts from members of our collective – we trust there is something in here for each and all.

Look after one another as we front up to 2021 – we are human beasts in a living world of joy and pain: Laugh when you can, cry when you must. Time moves.

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Advocating for individual need and structural change: Can we do both?

A guest post by Sophie, final year BSW student

As I reach the end of a 4-year Bachelor of Social Work degree, I am left asking myself how social workers can work to serve individual need whilst promoting social change? Can we be agents of change; do we further perpetuate oppression through practice? Or do we unknowingly do both? I have come to understand that what is really needed is the continuation and increase in support for individuals and families, however this alone will not alleviate social problems such as child poverty. Recently, several news articles have highlighted the faulty systems that social work has operated within for far too long. These demonstrate a heavy reliance on Western ideologies and a lack of understanding of Te Ao Māori by putting forth tokenistic gestures as a means of ticking boxes.

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