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"The neglected professionals" : social workers and their power. Assoc. Prof. Birutė Švedaitė-Sakalauskė (Assoc. Prof. J. Buzaitytė-Kašalynienė Assoc. Prof. L. Gvaldaitė). WIT project, Vilnius, 26 th of June 2014. European Commission as Contracting Authority.
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Assoc. Prof. Birutė Švedaitė-Sakalauskė
(Assoc. Prof. J. Buzaitytė-Kašalynienė
Assoc. Prof. L. Gvaldaitė)
WIT project, Vilnius, 26thof June 2014
With financialsupport from the European Union
In 2012-2013 a scientific research project of "Social Work - Between Dependency and Autonomy" was implemented.
Its aim was to analyse the relationship of the social workers with power/force/authority.
A qualitative and quantitative researches.
The social workers as the “neglected professionals” or “neglected professionalism” represent one of the empirical categories which we reconstructed as a result of the qualitative research in the analysis of the reports of social workers and their leadership (approx. 170 pages of text).
We were mostly interested to know what social workers do when they are being neglected. How do they deal with "neglect"?
Neglect takes places when:
Neglect can happen: a) within the organization of employment (neglect by the management, colleagues, etc.), b) externally (cooperating institutions, specialists, etc.).
Neglect can be weak – strong – very strong. The latter hurts not only the professional role, but personal dignity as well.
Neglect is related to the relationship of dependency. (N. Elias: In so far as we are more dependent on others than they are on us, they have power over us...)
Who is the "chicken" and who is the "egg" here?
The context in which the social workers operate has a lot of impact on the ways to fight with "neglect".
The contexts can be of two types:
!!! Only the environment which encourages professionalism can be relevant for the specific nature of social work.
!!! The environment which does not foster (or even ruins) professionalism is "neglect of professionalism" in itself.
Robert Merton'stypology of adaptation to anomie (Anomie – strain caused by mismatch between the goals and means. Strain should be dealt with):
CONCLUSION: only a revolt is a chance to really change something in the environment which does not nurture professionalism. Unfortunately, the remaining strategies rotate the same vicious circle of "neglected professionalism"! Moreover, they enhance the problem in Lithuania where social work is taken for what it is not and can not be!
According to the data of the research carried out in 2013 (966 social workers):
- 81 percent agree with the fact that they should be active members of associations and represent the interests of the profession, however, only 17 percent practise that and 19 percent encourage others to do that.
Then the question is - why? It probably pays off more to complain and suffer alone than to act in an associated manner together... Is it more comfortable to be powerless than to gain power...?
For three reasons (according to B. Barry and K. Dowding):
1) When they do not see any chances of winning
2) When others do it for them
3) When they hope that others will do it for them (it is worth fighting collectively, but not individually)
The constructivist approach is even stricter in this: they claim that it is quite beneficial to be powerless, as you do not have to be responsible. "Power is not as corrupt...but the myth of power is" (G. Bateson).
The myth of power can work best when it is not spoken of, when it is not being analysed. However, it is debunked when it comes out in the open.
Social work is like Cinderella. Extremely kind, extremely beautiful, but hurt, pushed, unloved and undervalued by all...
The fairy tale of Cinderella can be perceived from two perspectives:
Maybe the increasing feeling of "being neglected" proves that the social workers are finally on their way to maturity and emancipation?
This training material is supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity - PROGRESS (2007-2013). This programme is implemented by the European Commission. It was established to financially support the implementation of the objectives of the European Union in the employment, social affairs and equal opportunities area, and thereby contribute to the achievement of the Europe 2020 Strategy goals in these fields.
The seven-year Programme targets all stakeholders who can help shape the development of appropriate and effective employment and social legislation and policies, across the EU-27, EFTA-EEA and EU candidate and pre-candidate countries.
For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/progress.
The information contained in this publication doesn’t necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission.
The sole responsibility of this content lies with the author. The Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information here contained.