Social workers must employ "everyday small actions of resistance" to revolt against austerity-based poor bashing

Austerity is being deliberately targeted at poorer people who depend on public services, a BASW Cymru World Social Work Day event heard.

University of Wolverhampton academic Graeme Simpson told social workers at Cardiff University that disabled people are being particularly hard hit by service closures and tougher eligibility criteria. He said that councils will be forced to make cuts of nearly 75% by 2018-19, with more than half affecting services and benefits.

Mr Simpson used his presentation, Social Work, Inequality & Austerity, to highlight that the richest five families in the UK have more wealth than the poorest 20% of society. He said a determination to entrench inequality lay behind repeated ministerial demands for more ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ in public services – “part of a language which justifies cuts and attacks on public services”, he told the BASW Cymru World Social Work Day event, Social and economic equality: social work solutions.

Describing the situation in England, Simpson added: “There is an ideological assault upon the public sector. An ideological attack upon the basis of the existing welfare settlement and the poor. An ideological re-ordering of financial (and hence social) relations under the guise of ‘austerity’. And a concerted attempt at developing a discourse which will enable this to happen – both in terms of welfare recipients and service provision.”

Simpson said the ideologically-driven agenda extended to social worker training, exemplified by Westminster education secretary Michael Gove’s recent criticval assertion that “social work training involves idealistic students being told that the individuals with whom they will work have been disempowered by society”.

Looking for ways of countering the political agenda, Simpson turned to Europe where he said there has been a “long tradition of relationship based social work”, centred on social pedagogy, using “relationship based practice as a radical practice”.

He said it was possible to subvert the aims of policymakers and a managerialist system by ensuring, as far as possible, that service users get what they need through those direct relationships with social work professionals. He told the Cardiff audience: “Everyday small actions of resistance can be revolutionary.”
 

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