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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Dissent, Struggle and Change: OT – The world in a teardrop

As many others will be doing at this uncertain time, I am hunkering down and wondering about the state of the play in the world as I know it. On a global scale the hypocrisy and ultimate futility of the US project in Afghanistan is gobsmacking. On a bigger scale still, the growing evidence of a planet pushed to breaking point by the extractive profit driven commodification of all things is chilling. Closer to home we have a virus to surround and conquer. It does seem that our politicians and public health specialists are close to being on the same page and we can have some confidence that this outbreak will be isolated and extinguished. We also have winds of change blowing through the bureaucracy of our state child protection system in Aotearoa. In this blog post I want to touch on the indirect connections – the conjuncture – between some of these things.

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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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Social justice and child protection – here comes the future!

We are still at the cross-roads with child welfare and the wider movement for social justice but the momentum for radical change is building. I have seen bits and pieces from the Kempe Center Virtual International Conference: A Call to Action to Change Child Welfare. It is challenging and refreshing to see workers from other countries wrestling with the burning need for child protection reform. Child abuse is a social problem that is entwined with wider issues. The current risk-saturated, procedure-driven, surveillance-orientated child protection paradigm delivers unequal outcomes, in Aotearoa and everywhere else where this system is administered. Why wouldn’t it?  *And what is to be done?

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Tough times

We have talked about the big picture : small picture stuff on this blog for some time. This is because it is THE question for social work – the key issue that we wrestle with in theory and practice. As suggested, these disturbing times are bringing out the best and worst of the human condition. The mounting social disruption and economic fall-out from the pandemic is severely troubling a world already severely troubled by the cumulative fall-out from global warming. The future as we have understood it in the main-stream Western narrative of progressive development no longer makes sustained sense – unless, perhaps, to the hyper-wealthy.

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Child protection: time to talk devolution

Kia ora koutou

The ‘devolution’of state social work, particularly child protection work, to Māori is the bone to be picked. It is a challenging debate and we are potentially at a critical turning point. For a start there are the “What is an old Pākeha man engaging with this issue for?” – “Isn’t it a topic for Māori to somehow resolve themselves?” kinds of questions to contend with. I’ll get to that part in the following paragraphs. We need to be talking about devolution – again – and we need to get it right this time.  

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OK Social Work?

A guest post by Jude Douglas

For years when I was working in statutory child protection I didn’t easily admit to being a social worker. There was a sense of shame for me personally about the control aspects of the work and also, people’s ideas of what a social worker was were hazy at best and often just downright wrong. So I just put my head down and did the job. Several years ago and about the time I was moving to broader level roles and when the debates about registration and professionalisation were really ramping up I decided that there was an opportunity to reclaim the title of social worker and own it, and put out there what we did. This was without a strong media interest in issues around social care – it’s still that way unless of course there’s a disaster – then there’s a baying of hounds for a while and the silence resumes.

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Te Kuku O Te Marama: Questions Arising

This review by the Office of the Commissioner for Children was prompted by an alarming escalation in the removal of Māori infants from parental care by the state. The report sets out to address the following question: “what needs to change to enable pēpi Māori (0-3 months) to remain in the care of their whānau in situations where Oranga Tamariki-Ministry for Children is notified of care and protection concerns?” It is introduced as the first part of a two-part reporting process: we are told that the forthcoming second part of the report will offer practical recommendations for change.

This document is the third in a series of related inquiries prompted by ongoing concerns over the persistence of institutional racism in statutory child protection. The spark was provided by the now notorious Hawkes Bay uplift debacle. We also await the findings of an investigation from the Ombudsman (Peter Boshier) and the outcome of a Waitangi Tribunal inquiry. The burning issue of state social work responses to Māori is also central to the ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry into historical abuse in state and faith-based care. In the following post I will offer some thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of this report.

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