When I first began in Social Services in the late 80’s the politicisation of social workers was in it’s death knell.
The 80’s and 90’s saw the continued rise of neo-liberalism, and, in social work, managerial-ism, with “New (right-wing) Labour” promoting Tory agendas, and the decline in the radical and political social worker.
But now the great neo-liberal lie is coming home to roost and people, the people, are beginning to see the truth. Whether our clients are the elderly, disabled or children, the neo-liberal agenda has had a negative impact on their welfare and well-being, on the pound in their pocket, on the services they depend upon.
Jeremy Corbyn is a man of his time, stepping into the fray when the world is ripe for a socialist message of care, and Kitty once again hits the nail on the head in this article.
Poor old David Cameron’s the butt of a few jokes at the moment, for his comment about Corbyn’s dress sense. But he got it wrong. He told a man to do up his tie when that man’s tie was perfectly neat and fastened at the time of the jibe. The comment showed Cameron’s prejudice and fear. And although not a standard suit, Corbyn’s jacket and trousers were a perfectly acceptable alternative. In a world where few people have jobs that require the wearing of a suit and tie, the comment also made Cameron look a bit out of touch.
I feel a little sorry for Cameron (hear me out). He’s clearly not the brightest of his bunch – average yes but not the brightest. I also don’t think he’s as evil as some of his colleagues appear to be. He’s had a privileged upbringing and knows nothing of the experience of the majority, and he hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of having the genuine charisma that enables him to put a smile on the face of a woman who has just lost everything in a flood by putting his arm around her shoulders and singing happy birthday to her. He genuinely doesn’t understand why he’s not winning the popularity stakes. And I think he really believes he’s trying to do the best for the country and the people; he’s just seeing everything through his own privileged lens and is not able to see or understand the real impact of Tory policies. He doesn’t know how to handle Jeremy Corbyn and he’s out of his depth. He’s tried to imitate Corbyn’s personable videos and just looks wooden. He can’t speak off script, as Jeremy can, and this foolish comment about Corbyn’s attire proves it. The more I look at Cameron the more I think he’s just a puppet, a front man.
It’s the evil ones behind Cameron that are dangerous – and the reason we need to get this bunch of Tories out. The commentaries on Cameron’s slipped mask of geniality (in ridiculing Corbyn for his dress sense and showing up his privileged background and lack of understanding) are a lighthearted diversion but let’s not get distracted from what else is going on – Tory cuts to the poor, disadvantaged, sick, disabled and elderly; rising poverty, dependence on foodbanks and homelessness; privatisation of the NHS, education (aka academies) and increasingly Social Services. And now there is an EU referendum coming up.
Whatever your view of Britain’s EU membership, be aware that Brexit is also a backdoor vote for the devolution of Scotland and the break up of the UK – if the UK votes for Brexit then Scotland will demand another referendum and almost certainly opt for independence so they can rejoin the EU. The OUTers talk of making new trading partners but who is out there to welcome li’l ole England to trade, and don’t think the EU will not beat us with the biggest stick it can find if we vote out of the club.
The official Labour line is to vote to stay IN albeit for different reasons to the Tory party – worker’s rights, human rights and employment protection for starters. What they don’t add is that the EU is also one of our few protections against our own (current) despotic government. While the EU is a cumbersome, often fragmented, and sometimes laughable institution, on balance I believe we are better off staying in than leaving. At 15 I was too young to vote in the 1970’s referendum but I would have voted to have stayed out if I had had the chance. And until fairly recently I remained an ardent Eurosceptic. Forty years on and we live in a very different world: a globalised society unimaginable to us in the 1970’s and one that’s changing faster every day. As we think about what to vote, let’s ask the question the old indigenous tribal leaders used to ask: what best serves the interests of this and tomorrow’s generations?
So, let’s enjoy for a moment the discomfiture of a Prime Minister who doesn’t get it and has made a foolish comment as a result, but let’s not lose sight of the bigger issues at hand.
There was a time when that question didn’t need to be asked. Social workers entered the profession knowing that the people they would be working with would, largely, be the poor and dispossessed, forgotten and unloved by society and so by governments. Standing up for the rights of services users came with the job. However, coinciding with the encroach of managerialism in the 1990’s so the political desire and muscle of social work has steadily weakened – at least on the front line: academics have, by and large, continued to bang the political drum.
Can it continue this way? We live in a society where the ruling political class appears to be as far removed as possible from the reality of daily experience of large swathes of society. It’s not just the traditionally disadvantaged, dispossessed and disaffected who are being impacted on by the austerity measures of UK governments since the global financial crisis of 2008/09. The number of working poor has risen, dependent on tax credits, while there has been an exponential rise in the use of food banks. David Cameron’s government squirmed under demands for evidence on the catastrophic impact of benefit sanctions policies, amid mounting anecdotal evidence of real hardship leading to deaths of people with chronic physical and mental health conditions. Jeremy Corbyn swept into the leadership role of the Labour Party on an anti-austerity ticket, despite complete derision of him and his policies in the popular media. Labour Party membership has since eclipsed membership of other political parties. Corbyn has gone on to impress with his calmness, authenticity, and his doggedness at revealing the hypocrisy of government policies. Regardless of whether you support him or his policies, there is no doubt he is having an impact.
With another financial crash forecast (and the evidence is compelling) the situation can only get worse. The poor, disadvantaged, dispossed, and disaffected need champions more than ever. Whether we work among children & families, adult services, with people affected by physical or learning disabilities, or mental health problems, we see the impact of poverty and austerity. It’s not easy to fight the political fight when you too have been affected by years of managerialism, budget cuts, austerity, and frequently working way more hours than you are paid for, but maybe in the renewed interest in politics there will the re-politicalisation of social work long advocated by the academics.
Tax Credits – there are too many news reports to cite here – however among the most recent has been the vote in the House of Lords which has delayed, for now, the implementation of cuts to tax credits before the implementation of a new national living wage. George Osborne, responding to the decision in the House of Lords, made it clear that they will be continuing to pursue their policies and will be looking at taking action against the House of Lords to prevent such votes in future.
Labour membership – despite the claims that Jeremy Corbyn was a train crash waiting to happen for the Labour Party, party membership has continued to rise, something that began following their defeat in the May 2015 general election. This has been reported in several places, including here in the International Business Times.
Benefit Sanctions – among the plethora of online news reports is this article in The Guardian. It has got so bad that the UN is intending to investigate the UK government over benefit sanctions, as reported here in The Mirror.
Next financial crash – again reported in several places, this article in The Guardian brings the story up to date.