Social Work & Society The e-journal Social Work and Society is dedicated to critical analysis of the relationship between social work, social policy, the state and economic forces. en-US (Marie Fruehauf) (Mario Hildebrandt) Mon, 09 Oct 2023 16:24:00 +0000 OJS 60 “The closed door?” The relationship of the Ciganos with the labour market from the perspective of the employment and training officers <p class="swsAbstract"><span lang="EN-GB">The employability of the Portuguese Roma, or Ciganos, is one of the major challenges that arises in contemporary Portuguese society, being transversal to other European countries, since a part of this population lack the necessary school and professional qualifications for their integration in the labour market. Employment and professional training centres can operate as institutional mediators between the Ciganos and the labour market. However, there are few studies about these public services and this article aims to fill this gap in terms of knowledge on this thematic. This paper is based on the analysis of the results derived from an online survey applied to employment centre directors and officers, aimed at unravelling the motives that justify, in their perspective, the low employability of Ciganos. Despise the results highlighted the greater emphasis on explanations of individual order and lesser reference to factors that are structural or focused on the employers. The contact with Cigano culture appears to be associated with a decrease of the importance of explanations of individual order and a higher weight of the explanations of structural order.</span></p> Pedro Candeias, Pedro Caetano, Maria Manuela Mendes, Olga Magano Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 A Relational Approach to Understanding Welfare Recipients’ Transitions from Long-Term Unemployment to Employment and the Role of Case Work <p>In Germany, the great majority of long-term unemployed face difficulties in (re-)entering the labour market due to a variety of barriers, including insufficient educational and/or vocational qualifications, poor health, migration background, language deficits, being over 50 years old, and family care responsibilities. However, the work-first approach of German employment services has difficulties in overcoming the multitude of these barriers. In contrast to many quantitative analyses on the topic, our qualitative study adopts a relational-theoretical approach. This approach combines synchronicity and diachronicity perspectives to analyse the conditions that enable transitions into sustainable and sufficient employment, despite the aforementioned adversities. Based on 33 cases of long-term unemployed we used biographical interviews and a modified qualitative network analysis to identify factors that hinder or facilitate such unlikely transitions into the primary labour market. Our findings suggest that a "life-first approach" referring to the lifeworld of individuals can increase the likelihood of these transitions and retention in employment. Therefore, our findings imply that casework focused on lifeworld and biography holds the greatest potential for providing institutional support to these individuals.</p> Andreas Hirseland, Lukas Kerschbaumer Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 From disabled people’s right to work to the duty to work? Changes in Swiss disability policy and its implementation at the cantonal level <p>The article discusses the current shift in Switzerland's disability policy from the right to work (in a sheltered workshop) for disability pensioners to the duty to work in the labour market for people with disabilities, whether they have a disability pension or not. The analysis of Swiss disability legislation and its implementation in the cantons of Basel-City, Ticino and Vaud shows that federal and cantonal disability policy questions the social and economic rights attached to a disability pension, in particular the right to be freed of the obligation to participate in the labour market, the right to be freed of the obligation to participate in welfare-to-work programmes in exchange for disability benefits, the right to work in a sheltered workshop and the right to supplementary benefits. These rights are being replaced by the (moral) duty for people with disabilities to integrate the labour market, with little chance of successful integration.</p> Natalie Benelli, Antonin Zurbuchen, Morgane Kuehni, Peter Streckeisen, Spartaco Greppi Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Boundary Setting between ‘Private’ and ‘Professional’ in Care Work <p>The problem of boundaries and emotions is central to the relationships that develop in the practice of social and care work. The article analyses interviews with social and care workers serving the elderly at home. In the narratives of our informants, physical and emotional boundaries are not static. These notoriously unstable boundaries were revised even further during the pandemic due to fluctuations in workload and increasing risks and instability. It often resulted in a power imbalance in care work and vulnerabilities of care workers. We describe the peculiarities of setting boundaries, which comprises various tactics derived from professional training and lay experiences that caregivers use to negotiate rules and compromises. Key data production methods are participatory observations and 37 semi-structured interviews with social and care workers from non-governmental and municipal agencies in the Russian cities of Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Tomsk, and Saratov. This paper provides empirical evidence of the lack of professional training, reliance on informal knowledge transfer, and the shortage of resources to secure the caregivers’ ‘autonomy from the service user’ while at the same time keeping the balance between the well-being of care providers and that of service users.</p> Artūrs Hoļavins, Elena R. Iarskaia-Smirnova Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Introduction: Social Work Future(s)—What social work does the world need now? <p>This special issue of Social Work &amp; Society includes contributions made to an online conference held in June 2021 that invited speculative engagement with the question What social work does the world need now? The aim of the conference was to create space for uncommon and potentially less intelligible ideas and problematics, and in so doing, foster disciplinary engagement with the possible futures of social work in the context of major societal, environmental and technological changes. To lay out the landscape for the articles that follow, in this editorial, we explore the meaning of the future, as it relates to the trajectory of modernism, through the historical philosophy of Reinhart Koselleck. At this juncture, where existential threats from environmental degradation and new technologies, dominate a zeitgeist of existential angst we question the norms that brought humanity to this point. With scholars from science and philosophy, we conclude that modernism has been destablised, and its norms of human exceptionalism and eternal progress have expired. We argue that in this context, to be of use, social work, a progeny of modernism, must revisit the terms of its relationships and its purpose.</p> Heather Lynch, Tina Wilson Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Building Jetties to the Future: Thinking and Doing Social Work in a ‘Moment of Danger.’ <p>This paper engages the core question animating the 2021 Social Work Futures conference: What ‘social work’ does the world need now, and in the years to come? It argues that while the profession’s mandate to respond to the human needs and social issues in front of it cannot be sidestepped, present-focused interventions are not in themselves sufficient. The entangled ‘wicked problems’ confronting global communities – such as climate change, poverty and inequality, homelessness, or zoonotic pandemics – are complex, contingent, and intransigent. Addressing them demands forward-looking, transformational thinking and action, within and across disciplines. How can – or should - social work position itself in relation to these realities? Can the profession balance responsiveness in the present while also fundamentally re-orienting its knowledge systems and practices? The paper engages these critical but vexing questions through the lens of arguably the most profound global challenge of this era: climate change and the interlocking socio-environmental challenges related to and contributing to it, and suggests some potential pathways for transforming social work knowledges, practices, and capacities toward becoming a discipline of consequence in an increasingly contingent, unstable, and unsustainable world.</p> Susan P. Kemp Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Canonical critiques and geopolitical shifts: Addressing the neoliberalism/collective dichotomy in social work <p>This article problematizes the disciplinary ‘black-boxing’ of the concept of neoliberalism, and the concomitant idealization of community as antidote, within social work scholarship. Our central claim is that an oppressive neoliberalism/authentic community dichotomy cannot adequately represent the major problems and solutions facing state-sponsored social work today. We argue that the thought behind ‘neoliberalism’ is much more complex and nuanced than is widely assumed, and that making this complexity visible provides a means of developing forms of critique crucial to addressing the contemporary problems of increasingly illiberal societies.</p> Heather Lynch, Tina Wilson Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Un-asking the question: Introducing a Critical Buddhist Analytic <p>In response to a call for a social work that reimagines the contours and content of the “social” (Wilson &amp; Lynch, 2021, p. 1), we present two concepts central to Buddhism: śūnyatā (translated as “emptiness”) and anātman (“no-self”), the anti-essentialist concept of śūnyatā as applied to the subject. The negation of all dualisms—the refutation of the anthropocentric, humanist world view, central concerns of the “new” posthumanisms—are basic premises of Buddhism. Our intent is to point to: 1) the untapped conceptual/theoretical riches of Buddhism, and; 2) the example of the Mindfulness industry, which cautions us that while social work is willing to extract elements of historically marginalized onto-epistemologies to be incorporated into the existing knowledge base, that base is not intended to be decentered. We introduce Buddhism, not as a truer alternative, but as a radical heuristic for un-settling the onto-epistemologies of rationality, the human subject, and social work futurities.</p> Yoosun Park, Alicia Chatterjee Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Post-Critical Social Work? <p>Social workers and students are constantly reminded to employ critical thinking to navigate this world through their practise. But given how many of these challenges pose significant problems for the theories that social work has traditionally drawn upon, should we now be critical of critical thinking – its assumptions, its basis, and its aspirations – itself? This paper explores this question by considering the rise of ‘post-critique’ across the social sciences and humanities in the last thirty years, and how they might problematize what I call the atmospherics of critical thinking that dominate social work education. Drawing on the resonances between social work and philosophy, the paper explores what the implications of ‘post-critical thinking’ is to social work education.</p> Tom Grimwood Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Beyond the human – Garden communities in community gardens <p class="swsAbstract"><span lang="EN-GB">This paper contributes to the growing body of literature on ecosocial work that advocates for a refocus of the social work profession towards more-than-human environments and interconnectedness. One context in which the relationships between people and other-than-human beings become particularly concrete and tangible are community gardens. Based on five interviews with social workers in England, I examined practitioners’ experience with ecosocial work in community gardens, prevalent human-centred perspectives on gardening activities, and the more-than-human relationships that emerge in garden settings. Using Bruce Morito’s concept of thinking ecologically, I argue that from an ecosocial work perspective community gardens should not be instrumentalised solely for human benefits and reduced to the human communities they cultivate. Instead, ecosocial work needs to pay closer attention to the multispecies relationships emerging in garden settings.</span></p> Verena K. Fisch Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Using foresight practice to imagine the future(s) of mutual aid <p class="swsAbstract"><span lang="EN-GB">Most social work research explores ways to prevent or ameliorate social problems to relieve human suffering. Less common in social work is research which considers the future as a preparative tool to address challenges faced today. This qualitative methods paper describes the uses of a foresight lens and futures-focused framework to analyze empirical research. The paper first provides insight into speculative turns toward futures practice within academic and non-academic traditions in the United States. It describes the ways foresight has emerged within social work research and beyond. Next, the paper contextualizes the case study of mutual aid as a community strategy and research focus within a U.S. context. Then, the paper provides the steps the research team took to use Dator’s (2009) four futures framework, which analyzed interviews of mutual aid participants and organizers (N=25) during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research team provides insights and best practices for using the foresight lens as an analytical tool, including reflexivity, flexibility, and an emphasis on centering participant voices. The paper ends with limitations and implications for the use of foresight practice and future-focus tools in the field of social work as a means to help prepare researchers, practitioners, and educators for the complex crises yet to come.</span></p> Annie Zean Dunbar, Danielle Maude Littman, Madi Boyett, Kimberly Bender, Kate Saavedra, Colleen Cummings Melton, Tara Milligan, Colin Bogle Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Re-conceptualising agency in social work as socio-material, relational entanglements <p>Post-humanism and feminist new materialism offer insights for social work to engage with the mutually entangled relations of the material-social world. Although taking up these alternate knowledges challenges concepts such as human agency, long-held as fundamental within social work. In this paper, we engage with Karen Barad’s agential realist framework and the concepts of intra-action and response-ability to re-think agency in social work, not as a human-centred endeavour, but a dynamic, dispersed force which arises across human, nonhuman and more- than-human relations. Drawing on interview data from a study that explores school social work in the aftermath of earthquakes in Aotearoa New Zealand where concerns for children’s vulnerability were pervasive, we produce three vignettes which foreground the spaces, places, objects and bodies that emerge as agential enactments within these practice encounters. This performative analysis engages with the productive qualities of these material-discursive entanglements offering possibilities for invoking ‘response-able’, just social work practices within institutional power relations.</p> Raewyn Tudor, Shanee Barraclough Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Digital Discontents: Freedoms and constraints in platform social work <p class="swsAbstract"><span lang="EN-GB">Across the diverse domains of social work in the United States, new digital tools are altering the worker experience. This paper offers the example of one case in which technology has been transforming social work practice, documenting how clinical social workers who contract with for-profit tele-mental health platforms describe their experience of providing therapy to clients. Privately owned, technology driven, direct to consumer tele-mental health platforms have become a new actor in the fragmented American mental health landscape. This qualitative study presents findings from a sample of 22 professional social workers to observe how this novel context changes the experience of providing therapy. Participants described being drawn to contract with platforms by promised freedoms: flexible hours and remote work, and the opportunity to develop skills or to cultivate their own private practices. Simultaneously, they observed how working on platforms constrains the provision of therapy that they offer to their clients. In particular, participants shared that they were required to cultivate new skills of creating digital intimacy within new two dimensional and asynchronous spaces. They also noted that they engaged in invisible and unpaid forms of labor in order to maintain clients and to provide services that aligned with their professional values. As technological tools and systems continue to shape the future of social work practice, professionals will need to be alert to how these forces shape their own professional potentials and to the ethical implications of a changing service landscape. Descriptive outcomes of this study offer intersect with research literature on ghost work, platform labor, and the commercialization of care.</span></p> Lauri Goldkind, Barbara Pohl, Lea Wolf Copyright (c) 2023 Mon, 09 Oct 2023 00:00:00 +0000