Thursday, October 20, 2011

Social Workers as middle class professionals

Today my wife attended a meeting in which there was a Social Worker representing a government initiative that would represent a very marginalised group. It became evident from my discussions with my wife that the people this Social Worker was to be representing were not thought of as being important enough to be considered before others. This group of individuals of which my wife is one were introduced last to the group after all the professionals in the room had been introduced. To some this may seem like a small issue but to those present and to my wife this was significant enough to cause some distress. I see this as a failing of some social workers, that is there inability to consider the place their clients play in the process. Often we seem to think that our place, the professional, is more important than the clients. We forget that it is the client whose needs are important and often we forget to ask them what their needs may be. We have been doing that with indigenous people since we arrived here.

It would be somewhat refreshing to now have the focus placed back on those we serve rather than focussing on the "us" as the expert in peoples lives. To in fact put them as first in everything we do. What would cause us to not do this? Are we afraid that we will be diminishing our sense of professionalism and power by empowering others to take control of their lives and to acknowledge their existence as primary and ours as secondary?

The lesson to be learnt is that when a group of stakeholders are present and some of these stakeholders are consumers or clients acknowledge them before any others.

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