5th Congress of Social Work - International Symposium
The symposium will be held on 26th September 2013 in Ljubljana, Hotel Mons, Slovenia as part of the 5th Congress of Social Work. Working language is English.
Current economic crisis initiated many states considering themselves as welfare states to introduce social changes that distanced them from the concept of welfare by introducing the concept of workfare and punitive state. Neoliberal or neoconservative ideological assumptions got an important place in social policies and can be recognised in social rights cuttings, obstacles to accessibility of and eligibility to services, and in increased dependency on labour market for survival. The most obvious consequences are increase in poverty, homelessness and severe social problems. These changes affect social work in different ways throughout the world.
The primary role of social work is to assist people, citizens, groups and communities in need of support and care in order to live a better life according to their needs and desires. Social work is a science and a profession that constantly explore, investigate, analyse, look for solutions in close relationship with people. It responds to changes but it also creates them. It is also important to reflect on obstacles that are causing social work to be overlooked, helpless and put aside.
Social changes remind us of the need to cooperate regardless of differences between us and to look for solutions that will contribute to the common good. We need societies that will enable cohabitation of different people with a variety of life-styles, with different cultural and social backgrounds, opinions, and without having the power to destroy, humiliate and expel those that are marked as the Others, that are different from “us”. To do so, we have to defend, maintain and even strengthen the welfare state that is ensuring safe and decent life.
In re-opening the issue of the welfare state we rely on two presuppositions: 1. Welfare state caused deep and comprehensive changes of societies, and 2. Welfare state has an impact on the way democracy is exercised and built in a particular state, because it enabled the development of a citizenship based on the universal principles of equality and social justice. If people do not experience welfare gap, they can better communicate as citizens living in the same political structure. Denying the importance of the equality of linguistic, religious, ethnical, cultural and other differences does not only reduce the possibility for positive communication in society; the result of the growing welfare gap is that each individual difference is becoming a source of conflicts instead of being a form of positive diversity.
The primary aim of social work as a science and as a profession is to ensure social participation of all people on all levels of society: micro, mezzo and macro levels. Social work is therefore connected not just with individuals and families, but also with communities and society as a whole. It coordinates, supports, organises and creates new forms of care on community level and is engaged in political activism where it co-creates politics, systems and values. The main issue at the 5th congress of social work will be to explore, assess and discuss the role of social work in maintaining and strengthening the welfare state.
The complexity of the concept of citizenship is a new challenge for social work. Migrations, economic, gender and class inequalities, ageism, ethnic discrimination, poverty, different lifestyles, sexual orientation, religious and ideological differences, opportunities and choices of people experiencing metal health problems or a handicap – all of these themes were relevant for social work in the past but are currently reshaped by the new economic and social reforms that demand new theoretical considerations and practical interventions. The main question is, how in current times social work can contribute to the empowerment of people on the margins and ensure them full and active citizenship.
Social work deals with concrete, everyday needs of people and operates in the communities, where people live, therefore it has knowledge and information on problems they are experiencing. It pays special attention to the empowerment of community to create a space for everyone who wants to live in it and accepts it as their own. The key principles of social work are solidarity, autonomy and collective belonging to the community.
One of the key issues for social work is to be involved in creation of social policy that will implement the idea of welfare state. In current times of crisis it has an important role in the society on all three levels of society (micro, mezzo and macro). The important question that results from the experiences of new austerity measures and cuts in welfare state is: will social work continue to develop or will it become deprofessionalized and marginalised as it happened before (but this was successfully overcome). There are three ways of possible deprofessionalisation: 1. subordination of social work to social policy; 2. bureaucratisation of social services and 3. reduction of social work practice only to the most needy and marginalised.
Deadline for submission of abstract is 24th may, 2013!