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Give social workers a role in disaster relief work

Social workers should be given a more integral role in supporting teams of workers who assist with natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies.

Speaking at BASW England’s Annual Conference, the association’s development manager, Bridget Robb, questioned why disaster prevention and management in the UK does not involve social workers in any official capacity. Instead, she argued, disaster planning relies exclusively on expertise from emergency services and aid organisations, such as the Red Cross.

Ms Robb introduced the theme for the day – the challenges of ethical practice – opening with a message from the International Federation of Social Work (IFSW), urging social workers to promote social justice by empowering service users. IFSW suggested this can be achieved through better professional training and development, and social workers being given the support to practice ethically and to “take reasonable risks”.

She went on to urge social workers to consider whether they could honestly describe themselves as “people focussed” in their own workplaces. Ms Robb pointed out that as employees of the state, many social workers could be considered complicit in a system that does not always act to prevent abuse.

Ms Robb ended her presentation with a plea based on the BASW acronym – “Be Active for Social Work!”