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IFSW blog: 'The local is global'

Social work is a global profession. Global shared purpose, values and learning help to strengthen social work in each country.

The recent International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Europe meeting of delegates from across 26 nations of Europe showed this in practice.

Gerry Nosowska, who attended with Ruth Allen and observers Debbie Ryding and Ellen Paladini-Stone report back to members.

Across Europe, social work associations came together for our annual meeting of representatives. The aim was to share, to support each other and to plan action. During the three-day online meeting we:

  • Heard from our representatives to key European policy and political bodies
  • Agreed our work plan to advocate for human rights across Europe, share learning and take action
  • Shared updates and gained peer support
  • Heard particularly a report from the project on new social workers: the future of the profession
  • Congratulated Ireland and Belgium on the 50th anniversary of their associations.

IFSW Europe representatives make sure that social work’s voice is heard in European campaigning groups and policy forums. For example, Ruth Allen represents IFSW and is on the organising committee of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations (CINGO) of the Council of Europe which advocates for human rights, democracy and the rule of law across 47 European states. We extended our  gratitude also to Fran McDonnell and Ian Johnston who are stepping down after years as representatives to the European Anti-Poverty Network that has influenced policy and the politicians particularly across the EU.

IFSW Europe also links into the IFSW’s global Commissions to promote ethics and human rights, work with the United Nations, and to develop social work education.

Jane Shears is the IFSW Europe representative for ethics and supports work to embed the global ethical principles in practice and education. A new area of development globally is the Indigenous Commission. BASW will follow up on this development with the newly appointed European representative.

Hearing about IFSW Europe’s project to bring new social workers together we learnt of a year’s intensive work to create guidelines for social workers, employers and associations to support them. We raised the issue about how to support new social workers from diaspora communities. In BASW we recognise how vital support to students and newly qualified workers is. We can always do more to engage and create opportunities, and can use this policy paper to help us. Thank you to Omar Mohamed and Siobhan MacLean who have directed this project.

IFSW Global approved a new project to identify the threats to human rights during the Covid-19 pandemic and social workers’ response. BASW has already provided resource to IFSW to gather information and have shared our own learning. We heard from colleagues in Europe about how central IFSW’s guidance and support has been during Covid-19. We can now build on this across the continent and global regions.

IFSW Europe delegates agreed that we will prioritise work for climate justice and for inclusion. We can make links with our UK sustainability policy and our work on the role of social work in disasters.

BASW has worked on actions that member associations can take to support each other in challenging policies that undermine human rights. The action were agreed and social work associations recommitted to helping each other challenge policies that undermine rights and democracy.

In BASW we want to build an association where all social workers feel part of a global profession, and where social workers from other countries feel welcome and supported.

We encourage all members to look at the international work that is happening. Please consider joining the International Committee, look at the work of the International Development Fund, and if you are a social work from the diaspora, get involved with the Diaspora Special Interest Group.