UK social workers are part of a global profession – let’s celebrate it
Ruth Allen will take up post as BASW’s chief executive next month. Here, for World Social Work Day, she reflects on the theme of promoting dignity.
The chance to celebrate social work – and know that the celebration is going on around the world – is really important to me. World Social Work Day (WSWD) is a celebration of globally acknowledged values and a moment to show our pride as a profession.
Social workers dedicate our working lives to getting alongside people who are experiencing health or social problems or who face discrimination and stigma. We use our skills and knowledge to work with those excluded from exercising their rights, from accessing resources and from maintaining their wellbeing within the mainstream of their societies.
This year’s WSWD theme is ‘promoting dignity and worth of peoples’. Like many others across our sector, I’m reflecting on the importance and urgency of this given the harrowing scenes from the refugee crisis in Europe and further afield.
If we are serious about promoting dignity and human worth, this starts by recognising this is about all of us. It is about learning together what works. Fundamentally it is about enabling and supporting people who have been disempowered, for whatever reasons, to speak their truth and find their solutions.
Next month I take up post as chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW). One key issue for me is how we can best use our role as part of the International and European Federation of Social Workers to contribute to support for refugees and other humanitarian emergencies.
Challenges close to home
Of course our role in promoting people’s dignity and human worth is also vital closer to home.
Here in the UK, people are facing increasing material and emotional stress and deprivation relating to welfare reform and the underfunding of health and social care (particularly preventive and early support). There is increasing inequality in access to housing. Homelessness, an important barometer of our societal wellbeing, has risen hugely. These are fundamental challenges to people’s dignity and sense of worth.
As social workers, we value being able to work within the framework of the Human Rights Act as well as international frameworks such as the UN Convention on Rights of Persons With Disabilities. The political efforts to have the Human Rights Act repealed in the UK – a move that would undermine essential human rights protections – should concern all social workers in adults and children’s services.