Autocracy and Social Work


Just a quick observation on the general global trend towards having autocratic regimes disguised as democratic institutions. While watching the brutal attacks on citizens and tourists in Turkey last night from the state police and from the people’s own government, I was reminded of how at odds the actions of a supposedly democratic government were with the general voice of the public (who, in a democratic society supposedly have the power). Even thought the public have repeatedly said “No”, to the attack on their public spaces, to the attack on their freedom of speech, of assembly, or association, to the attack on their right to live in a democratic state – their government simply say “No” right back and completely ignore the masses. The government have apparently made up their mind to seriously encroach on secularism in Turkey and even though the majority of the citizens of the country argue against this there has been no meaningful debate or discussion on any of the issues brought forward by the protesters. The governments’ preference has been to dismiss all of the protests and demands for meaningful engagement with the public by branding the protesters as mostly looters, political losers and extremist fringe groups. Erdogan has said that the protesters went hand-in-hand with ‘terrorists’ and ‘extremists’ and branded them as not being representative of the views of the general public.

This made me think of here in Ireland and the rise of autocracy, specifically in the area of social work and social care. We have public organisations who continuously do not meaningfully listen to, or address, any of the ongoing concerns raised by staff in relation to the massive deterioration in frontline services due to increased budget cuts, staff shortages, lack of flexibility and innovation on managerial levels, increasing and pointless layers of middle management, increasing and pointless layers of bureaucracy and very opaque public health services whereby service users feel completely lost, un-cared for, not listened to and where complaints get swallowed up in “black holes” of “procedures” which don’t actually go anywhere.

We have a system whereby complaints, even when they go to the level of the Office of the Ombudsman, are often completely ignored by our public health system. If an autonomous institution like the Office of the Ombudsman which was set up to protect and vindicate the rights of the people of Ireland cannot force the autocrats in government and the health system to comply with legislation and the law, what hope is there for the rest of us? (Check out the various reports from the office of the Ombudsman’s website. They make for interesting reading).

We have a director of children’s services who by all accounts has quite a dislike for social workers and who is pushing ahead with the absolutely disastrous standardised business process for child protection, a process that has led to multiple deaths, an exponential increase in a crisis in child protection in the UK and a model that the UK child protection services have completely abandoned. There is even a huge report written on the whole process and how terrible it is by Professor Eileen Monroe. Even after having substantial amounts of evidence shown to him over the past number of years (yes, years) of how detrimental this will be for children and young people in Ireland, even after being continuously told by social workers and social care workers that the child protection system which is already under inordinate pressure, will completely crash and burn under this new bureaucratic, ineffective, de-humanising model, the director of children’s services is still pushing ahead with this plan. He is even ignoring any attempts by unions to intervene in the process.

We have a health minister who is currently changing the whole health system to put himself in charge of everything. In the next few years, ONE PERSON who is a TD, will be in charge of the whole health system. I can’t wait to see the fallout from that.

We have people in various positions of “power” who seem to have taken it into their heads that being voted into a seat in the Dail means you can make arbitrary decisions about women’s reproductive rights based on their own “moral compasses”.

We now live in an autocratic society, it seems. Where then, does that leave social work? Where does it leave those who want to empower people and populations to be educated about their rights and to fight for those rights to be meaningfully realised?

Answers on a postcard…

(Picture obtained from here:

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