by Sophie Ayers
Anti-discriminatory practice is one of the most important aspects of social work training and central to the professional standards we have to meet.
I’m increasingly alarmed to be practising in a political world that appears to be in direct opposition to this way of working and so incongruent with social work values.
For example, I’m extremely worried by Theresa May’s recent visit to meet Donald Trump and the subsequent invitation to Trump for a visit to the United Kingdom. I believe that May’s position is akin to collusion with Trump and his devastating immigration policy.
As social workers, we must meet section 6 of the HCPC’s standards of proficiency. It states that social workers must “be able to use practice to challenge and address the impact of discrimination, disadvantage and oppression”. These standards may not apply to our political leaders but I believe our government still has a duty to challenge and address Trump’s overtly hostile and discriminatory voice and policies.
If social workers were asked to use race, religion or a country of origin to inform risk assessments, widespread horror and outrage would ensue. I feel nothing but fear for Muslims in this current climate. I cannot imagine how Muslim communities are responding to Trump’s new anti-immigration policy.
A blatant disregard for respect
I wonder how I can look a Muslim service user in the eye, knowing that our prime minister is tolerating a blatant disregard for respect, equality and the right to live safely, without fear.
Whilst our government does not appear to be advocating a similar immigration ban to the United States at present, I continue to be concerned that there have been other indications, aside from passivity with Trump, that promote oppression and restrict support for human rights.
Take May’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, with particular reference to the many unaccompanied asylum seekers within the Calais camp. Our prime minister appeared to show a marked indifference and lack of action for children who deserved protection from some atrocious conditions.
While the government did relent and allow some unaccompanied asylum seekers to cross the channel, their response was slow and appeared to lack compassion. And now it has said it will limit to just 350 the number of unaccompanied refugee children it will take in from other European countries.
I am not minimising the complexities of the humanitarian issues palpitating across the globe. There is no clear solution. However, my regard for humanity being enhanced everyday through my social work practice makes the government’s complacent response to humanitarian crises a bitter pill to swallow.
Respecting human rights
Respect with regards to human rights should be at the heart of every social worker’s practice. However, with the government’s apparent leaning to pacify offensive immigration policies, it would be understandable for professionals to be cautious about the government that they work for.
Within social work practice, complicated ethical dilemmas enfold on a daily basis. It can range from whether a person who is displaying clear signs that they are a risk to themselves or others should be detained to whether a parent should permanently face the loss of their child through adoption.
Many critics of social work already argue that the balance of human rights has been lost, particularly with reference to the family court system. I currently do not share this view and am clear that there are strict legislative and ethical guidelines that affect decision making to protect any form of social engineering.
However, with our ingrained and taught sense of justice, it is imperative that social workers stand up now to the pernicious utterings of racism and prejudice that appears to be prevailing across the pond. America is a powerful force and has much influence over the British people and seemingly the UK government.
Social workers need to actively protest and find our voice against the very dangerous political landscape that is emerging. Let’s fight this destructive complicity and complacency at its infancy, rather than find ourselves in a world where every value base of our profession has become defunct and dispersed.
Sophie Ayers is a child protection social worker