Skip to main content

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17th October

Ruth Allen, CEO BASW introduces a guest piece from Ana Radalescu, President of the International federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Europe region.

I am pleased to introduce this guest piece from Ana Radalescu who the President of the International federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Europe region.

She was invited this week to present at the Council of Europe Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGO) in a session to mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty which is on 17th October 2020.

Reflecting on evidence from social workers across many European nations that fed in (via IFSW Europe) to the ‘Poverty Watch Report’ of the European Poverty Action Network, Ana speaks  on both common and varied challenges and efforts of social workers during Covid 19. 

This European perspective provides a context for solidarity and understanding of the international impact of the pandemic on societies, economies, politics and social work.

Ensuring social workers have a voice in the Council of Europe is important and we are supported in having a voice by the fact the President of INGO is a social worker, Anna Rurka. 

I represent IFSW Europe at the INGO main meetings and will continue to report back through BASW and IFSW on the important work done there to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law across the wider European geographical region.

We will continue to be members of the Council of Europe after Brexit is concluded – and it is an important place where we can express our internationalism around common concerns about social rights, peace and tolerance.

Ruth Allen, CEO BASW

Presentation to the Council of Europe - Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGO) 16th October 2020

A webinar to mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty 17th October:

Theme: Access to social and medico-social services for ALL: a springboard out of poverty

Ana Radulescu, President of International Federation of Social Workers, Europe

For many months across Europe, social service workers have ensured that people have access to support services, providing remote counselling and organizing ways to overcome isolation and lack of resources In the midst of Covid 19.

Social workers are providing support to dispel myths and fears about COVID-19, redesign social services to match people's ability to access them and call on governments for increased support for 'invisible' people. They also make efforts to gain recognition of social and care workers as essential service providers so that they can continue their in-person services and at home when needed.

All social workers' responses to our calls for information described the increase in poverty because of the catastrophic impact on the economy, particularly in tourism, hospitality and culture. People living at the edge of poverty lost all possibilities for income.

There are economic support and investment package from the governments. But this does not cover all areas affected. Poor families with children who live just above the subsistence level are often not included in this support, for instance.

Based on the information provided by social workers from all over Europe, we identified the following points that were also included in the IFSW contribution to the European Poverty Action Network Poverty Watch Report 2020  Full report due out later this year.

  1. The impact of the pandemic has hit hardest the people with whom social workers often work – those who are already vulnerable, marginalized and living in poverty. The closure of essential services, especially those located in communities, makes it more difficult for people to get the support they need.
  2. The needs and demands are increased as people face unemployment, family stress due to lockdown, bereavement, ill-health, isolation, increased racism and prejudice, and lack the resources to overcome such challenges and disadvantage.
  3. In many countries in Europe, the pandemic is exposing cracks that have been in the health and social welfare systems for years due to austerity and policies of marketisation and under-funding. The crisis has highlighted problems caused by a serious shortfall in the level of funding for social services and public health in most countries and by treating health and social care as separate and unequal systems.
  4. The pandemic is demonstrating the serious consequences of health, social and economic inequality, as experienced by large numbers of people in our communities. The widening of already existing inequalities means that those who need most support through access to adequate health, social service, housing and education are not receiving it and are struggling most to deal with the catastrophic economic consequences of the pandemic. Economic health cannot be achieved without social health.
  5. The organisational structure of health and social care systems varies between countries but in a pandemic health, care and social work staff groups face the same threats of infection. The distinction between what is termed ‘health’ and ‘social’ services also varies widely and is in many senses arbitrary.  So, for example, the task of social workers in hospital can be the same as providing social support in a residential home or a private residence.
  6. The IFSW study concludes that Covid-19 and measures to control and prevent its spread have restricted the services and responsibilities usually carried out by social workers, while generating new needs and demands. Underlying social problems and inequalities have been exacerbated, which current service provision or existing funding priorities may not recognize.

As recommendations, I will mention only 6 points of those developed by social workers:

  • Improve access and increase funding for universal health, care and social services to prevent vulnerable groups from a sharp decline of their resources;
  • Provide adequate social protection for all;
  • Invest in community-based services, which should be recognized as key services, and in include social workers in the develop strategies for individuals and communities;
  • Provide social workers and staff of social services with the necessary resources and equipment;
  • Enable digital access and technical access for all in order to access education, essential services and benefits
  • Implementation of the European Child Guarantee to address child poverty, which should include access to social services.

It is important that the EU and other European Governments listen to the messages coming from social workers and the social care sector and responds by ensuring there is additional investment in front line social services and social care during a second wave of Covid-19 and the future recovery. We have seen that in countries where this has happened, governments have managed to create the right support for the people and the people have remained resilient in this time of crisis.