IASSW AIETS logoSocial Dialogue Magazine

Carolyn Noble, PhD

Welcome to Social Dialogue Issue 22

The current coronavirus has put the spotlight on many issues our profession has been raising for several decades. The impact of neoliberalism on service delivery and welfare ideology resulting in the privatisation of public services and utilities causing funding and staff cutbacks and the demonising of welfare recipients are two recurring themes. The move to the right of politics and the rise of right-wing nationalism are further concerns because of the increase in the politics of fear, distrust, xenophobia and victim blaming, fostering individual egocentrism over community generosity.

With a lot of self-reflection going on as much of the world is self/physically distancing from work, love ones and social supports; with many workers losing their jobs, unable to pay for food, accommodation and essential services, this edition is dedicated to lessons learnt from our past mistakes in responding to economic, moral, ethical, political and human right challenges.

While this issue explores past transgressions committed in the name of social welfare we can learn lessons from our past actions and inaction by committing to a profession that will never allow the politics and power structures that perpetuated this abuse and neglect be replicated in our current practices and contemporary health and welfare institutions. This is especially true as this current health crisis puts huge pressures on health and welfare services as the human cost of this virus impacts on so many vulnerable people.

As the many articles in this edition attest to the uncomfortable fact that in the time of economic, moral and ethical crises and human rights violations social workers showed an inability (and at times a reluctance) to contest systemic injustices. While some did resist and advocate in favour of protecting those being discriminated against and/or abused, overall, the profession was implicit in practices that were shameful and unjust.

While apologies for past harms have been sincerely offered and, in many instances, accepted by those who suffered physical and emotional damage there is still more work to be done. The guest editors of this edition, Vasilios Ioakimidis, Maria-Ines Martinez and Aaron Wyllie argue that to consolidate lessons learnt and incorporate them into current practices the social work profession must establish a Global Truth and Reconciliation Commission (GTRC), not only to give survivors a space to share their experiences but for the profession to understand and reflect on the conditions that gave rise to and fostered harmful practices.

Included in this edition is also a warning that we still face these challenges as more restrictive and punitive control and surveillance measures are introduced to deal with the current pandemic.

In establishing a GTRC we have an opportunity to not only redress past mistakes, but an opportunity to reflect on these events and work to build a strong and effective profession ready to face current and future challenges as we are presented with yet another global crisis open to be manipulated by the more powerful moneyed players. We need to trust our institutions and practitioners to care for those made vulnerable and for our organisations to advocate for their welfare in ways that enhance their human rights and secure appropriate social and economic wellbeing.

On behalf of the guest editors I thank all the authors who have contributed to this edition.

Again, enjoy and reflect!!