We started the magazine as the lockdown began, many of us extremely fearful and anxious. A couple of months later, here we are with the third issue! Amidst the fear and anxiety, it has proved incredibly affirming to hear from so many across the world who have found the magazine useful and interesting. We hear that some are using it in teaching, others have discussed specific articles in team meetings, and lots have been inspired to write for it. Indeed, such has been the response that we have had to split the content of what was originally proposed for this issue and will be publishing a further issue next week.
As this issue shows, those experiencing services, students, social workers and academics have been sending in a wide range of contributions with poetry, videos and a cartoon to be found alongside more academic type articles. We are delighted too to showcase reflections on Greece and Australia. We hear from birth mothers waiting and wondering about what is happening to their adopted children in lock down and a mother holding her daughter in mind as she watches from afar as she navigates a potentially dangerous digital world in a residential setting. And we have the second video from care leaver and activist, Michael Clarke, talking about his experience of going outside in Covid-19.
We explore how poetry can provide us with hope and inspiration and return to themes in earlier issues such as how social work can be re-imagined as a more community-based enterprise and challenging government policies in England with the erosion of safeguards and protections in children’s social care.
It has become commonplace to observe that COVID-19 has exposed the dreadful fault lines in our current social settlement; precarious working, insecure incomes, the lack of affordable housing and the hollowing out of the social and physical supports that ensure human flourishing and well-being. A settlement that has denied our interdependence as human beings, our vulnerability and our need for care at all stages of the life cycle has been exposed as quite simply delusional as well as utterly cruel. It has also become commonplace to observe that we must not go back and that we need to construct a different more care-full and equal world
For us in social work we can take great heart from the evidence that has emerged in the pages of this magazine, and elsewhere, of the acts of kindness, creativity and ethic of solidarity that has been clearly apparent. These will serve us well going forward. But, we must confront the realities of being a profession that is so tied to the government of the day and the lessons this pandemic is teaching us about the choices we may need to make, and own, if we are to be part of a better world going forward.
Across the world, and within the UK itself, this crisis has shown that governments matter, and crucially, that competence and humanity are essential when seeking to manage a pandemic where thousands, if not millions of lives, are at stake.
The crisis has shown the need for governments that are composed of those who are steeped in the realities of making a living, caring for others and experiencing racism and exclusion because they are more likely to devise policies that will be attuned to the needs of the majority of citizens.
It has shown the need for governments that do not seek to command and control in a way that rides roughshod over local and community expertise not only because this makes for a stronger polity, but it means policies are more likely to be effective. We also need governments that seek to build genuinely inclusive coalitions to challenge and transform inequality and to expose those who use crises to funnel taxpayers’ money to their friends for poorly thought through centralising vanity projects.
Too often social workers, especially researchers, have been dismissed as ‘political’ when they have sought to point out the problematic implications of particular government policies and practices. Never again, should we allow our voices to be silenced in this way. This pandemic has taught us that our very lives, and those of our fellow citizens, may be dependent upon us speaking out.
As Rebecca Solnit has noted: ‘There is a long, rough road ahead. Without radical change, the way food, shelter, medical care and education are produced and distributed will be more unfair and more devastating than before. …The devastating economic effect of the pandemic will make innovation essential, whether it is rethinking higher education or food distribution, or how to fund news media.’ To this list, I would suggest, we add social work!
Brid Featherstone, Professor of Social Work, University of Huddersfield