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Workers’ Rights. Our Rights. And a Government Breaking Bad.

Written By: - Date published: 11:14 am, April 24th, 2018 - 17 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Politics, public services, Social issues, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, workers' rights - Tags: ,

There’s a good piece over at reimaginingsocialwork.nz dismantling the bullshit that’s oozing from parliament’s select committee process.

I’m not a social worker, and I’ve found myself questioning whether I even support the concept or not. Because if social work is geared towards ‘helping’ people cope in a highly dysfunctional society in such a way as to excuse that society’s dysfunction, then I’d say social work is toxic. If, on the other hand, coping mechanisms are developed while society is simultaneously taken to task, then social work is very much worth while.

That question or tension is addressed in the first two sentences of the linked piece by Emily Keddell.

I wasn’t always pro-registration. Coming from more of an activist background I was suspicious of the role of regulation by a government body when social work is about resisting and ameliorating the harms of the state.

The piece then goes on to address the other big question I’ve had around this Select Committee stuff. See, I’ve found myself asking why it is that certificates and courses are required for jobs as mundane as washing dishes or, if anyone can be employed to do “social work”, then why can’t anyone be employed to be a cop, or a teacher?

Under this stuff that’s coming out of the Select Committee I could be – if the same logic they are applying to social work was applied to those other areas. Emily explains it really well, so I’ll ‘haud ma wheesht’ on what others are explaining better than I could and simply encourage you click on the link that’s been provided.

The last nagging doubt I have (not covered by Emily) is around the motivation behind the Select Committee’s stance. Because if social work is to be politically neutered, then the quickest way to do that is to have things arranged so that any Tom, Dick, Jo or Harry can jump on in there;  that employers can ‘work the system’, not simply with an eye to making money, but on behalf of government in “keeping things safe” – to make sure hard questions are never asked and unsettling propositions never get to gather steam.

Pitting qualified and motivated workers against unqualified or unsuitably qualified workers, who may be more inclined to be motivated by the prospect of unpaid bills than by any political awareness, is toxic on many levels. And when it comes to funding, a ‘free for all’ in terms of the workforce, allows  government to guide funding towards those safer and less confrontational organisations.

The more I think about this malarkey, the angrier I become.  There is nothing progressive in what’s on the table at the moment – neither in terms of worker rights, nor in terms of possible social advancement. As of now, I’ll happily take myself along to “the barricades” if and when they need to be thrown up.




17 comments on “Workers’ Rights. Our Rights. And a Government Breaking Bad. ”

  1. jcuknz 1

    Since I have had a relatively successful life without any qualifications … learning my trade on the job I look sideways at the current preoccupation with certificates to show you can do any job. My experience has been that university graduates are normally inferior simply because they can see so many alternatives whereas one way is the obvious and a good solution.
    On the other hand having all the failures teaching is a way of getting them out of the workforce. Only problem is what they teach has to be unlearned once their victims enter the workforce.
    Plus the sad point that despite getting the certificate these days there is no job waiting for them to do.
    Another point that while I did do a training course it did not help me to get the jobs I did get but rather learning and training myself as an amateur and not in a job which ended up with my employment .. but that was in the easy days some 60 plus years ago when jobs were everywhere.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      My experience has been that university graduates are normally inferior simply because they can see so many alternatives whereas one way is the obvious and a good solution.

      The One True Way is how you get stuck in a rut and don’t improve things.

      On the other hand having all the failures teaching is a way of getting them out of the workforce.

      Teachers aren’t failures no matter how much National and their sycophants want to portray them as so. They’re highly skilled and necessary to the ongoing development of our nation. Without them we’d still be a highly ignorant bunch incapable of even the smallest feats that we achieve.

      Plus the sad point that despite getting the certificate these days there is no job waiting for them to do.

      That’s because we went all neo-liberal and stopped developing our economy. Focussing instead on being cheap primary producers.

      And then, of course, if we made highly skilled jobs all require a degree then National wouldn’t be able to portray them as unskilled.

      …but that was in the easy days some 60 plus years ago when jobs were everywhere.

      Back when the government ran a full employment policy and worked to develop our economy.

      • Andrea 1.1.1

        “Without them we’d still be a highly ignorant bunch incapable”

        A minor edit: ‘we’d continue to be a highly ignorant,’ etc

    • Bill 1.2

      Learning on the job is a bloody good way to go. But there’s a world of difference between learning on the job and picking up the required skill-set and (say) having apprentices legally pass themselves off as builders, or electricians or whatever.

      And yes, the sea of certificates and qualifications that wash around just about every job in NZ is bloody ridiculous.


      We’re talking about a profession that can have a huge impact on peoples’ lives. We’re talking about a profession where, if things go awry, death can be the consequence.

      And we’re talking about a government that (for the moment at least) appears to be seeing fit to undermine and trash out that profession. The ex-retail worker who has zero social work related qualifications can be dealing with vulnerable children, suicide risks and all that really dark shit that “polite” society tends to minimise and/or ignore – and maybe only because they have a half decent social network that meant they knew someone who could “put in a word” for them.

      How many levels of “wrong” do you reckon go to making up that situation?

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Sounds like National wrote it to protect employers from having to pay high wages and to prevent social workers from being recognised as having high skills. Skilless people don’t get paid well after all and it’s all their own fault.

  3. Rosemary McDonald 3

    Looks very good for the government to say “See! We funded 200 extra social workers to address our appalling child abuse statistics.”

    And another few years go by and there are more Mokos who would still be alive had a ‘social worker’ had a basic standard of professionalism that demanded that the child be actually sighted….before or after the ‘cup of tea’ Emily references.

    We fail at this in NZ…there needs to be fundamental change in how we do this work.

    I’ll stand at the barricades.

  4. koreropono 4

    What it takes to be a ‘real’ social worker, four years minimum university study, learning and understanding various methods to support change at systemic and individual levels, understanding how to navigate various systems, in numerous fields, mental health, family violence, elderly services, child welfare, youth suicide, homelessness, family dysfunction, poverty, risk assessment, crisis intervention, long term change strategies, WINZ, the courts etc (this list could go on). Six months unpaid practicum in statutory and non-statutory settings, 2000 hours on the job training and competency assessments required to gain registration, prove competency and adhere to a code of practice. Working within ethical guidelines in all decision making and understanding legal/professional obligations in regard to the VCA. Working in highly managerial, evidence based environments that require extensive report writing and recording etc. And being held accountable for any work we do with clients, that is the level of compliance and responsibility that social workers must meet. Meanwhile unqualified and/or untrained workers are being employed at a much lower cost and they have NONE of these requirements and it is putting vulnerable families at risk.

    If you want to understand what is going on, perhaps start looking at MSD contracts and funding, with increased social problems and dysfunction, driven by massive under funding in all sectors, social service providers are being squeezed, they are hiring unqualified, untrained workers to perform traditional social work roles, these organisations are doing what it takes to survive in a highly contracted environment, whilst manipulating data to prove outcomes to gain more funding. Meanwhile ask those families about those supposed outcomes and they’ll tell you a very different story. This is the new norm, it has been happening for years and this latest legislation, rather than protect vulnerable families and/or improving professional standards it has essentially endorsed what NGOs and non-qualified workers have been doing for years anyway, meanwhile those of us who actually did the work and training to work safely with families are being shafted, our profession is being shafted and our qualifications are being shafted. The one opportunity the select committee had to stop the mass shift toward untrained/unqualified persons working with vulnerable families has also been shafted! If you’re angry Bill, imagine how social workers are feeling about now…perhaps we can all become teachers, there’s a shortage I hear!

    • Rosemary McDonald 4.1


    • Venezia 4.2

      Koreropono. 100% support for everything you have written here on this subject. I am not a Social Worker, but have had close friends and family work their way through the social work degree here and up north. Am very familiar with their fieldwork placements, assessments of many skills and professional practice requirements.

  5. Ad 5

    Does govt have a majority on the committee?

  6. Andrea 6

    Does equivalence come into this?

    People who have done similar work overseas. People who have worked in special education.

    People who are willing to gently ripple the PC shroud, too.

    Training on the job, under supervision, is always an option, as well. As is ongoing training, employer funded.

    And the moment someone starts the ‘oh, you don’t have quals so you’re Lesser’ BS is the moment the system starts eating tis urgently needed young.

    • koreropono 6.1

      Hmmm not sure what you’re implying but I kind of get the feeling you think anyone can do social work without a qualification?

      There is a vast difference between having experience in ‘special education’ and understanding the multiple and compounding impacts of poverty, sexual abuse, mental health, child abuse, domestic violence or how to manage client transference, avoidance, projection, knowing what reflexive practice is and its importance, knowing how to work through a hierarchy of ethical dilemmas and making the best decision out of what may be multiple bad choices. There is a vast difference between understanding how to manage a child with autism in the class room and working with children with RAD or identifying a number of subtle clues that may identify child abuse, or even knowing the difference between ADHD and RAD – the differences are huge. Or even knowing when you are required to report under the VCA.

      There is a vast difference between having a willingness to help because you want to fix people and understanding about things like empowerment, anti-oppressive practice, bicultural practice, solution focused therapy, psychotherapy, CBT, using various social work models, understanding the planned change process, knowing how to undertake risk assessments, or assessing for signs of safety. There is a vast difference between being willing to ‘gently ripple the PC shroud’ (WTF does that mean anyway) and knowing the importance of reflexive practise, understanding and knowing how to identify your own privilege and ensure your work is underpinned by theory. Or in fact identifying the conflicts within social work itself and knowing the difference between working from an order or conflict perspective and how that translates into ‘rippling the PC shroud’.

      Those wanting to operate in the social work sphere have ample opportunity to prove their proficiency without having to go through university by applying for section 13 registration, which allows them to prove that they are experienced enough to practice social work and not pose a risk to the unsuspecting clients that they would otherwise foist themselves upon without thought of what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and what impact that doing may have in either supporting or damaging the unsuspecting client and any their willingness to seek help/support in the future especially if they’ve had a bad experience by the so called helping profession before.

      To suggest that anyone can go in and practice social work, without appropriate training and dare I say it actual fucking qualifications, well it is simply stupid. Shit shall we target doctors next, anyone can google which pills will fix which ailment and then all we need is any mindless dumb ass writing prescriptions on minimum wage and we’ve instantly solved the problem of our under-funded health system, never mind if a few die, it is a small price to pay!

  7. Phil 7

    As social workers we are taught to see “in context”…Sepulina, the select commitee and even Tolley’s drafting of the Bill, only begins to make sense in the context of English’s flagship Social Investment Model. C,mon people keep up.

  8. Michelle 8

    I agree with koreropono I have just had recent dealings with an Indian man who was a new social worker for CYFS and apart from not being able to understand his English he was useless he didn’t know the system he was working in and he didn’t know anything about maori who are over represented in the system. Now this organisation has a pommy women why ? is it because this organisation is so toxic thanks to our last government it has become increasingly worse it was also bad under labour beforehand. But when you start importing social workers it has made it even more untenable. We don’t need more foreigners in our public social services who come her with there predominantly western trumped up do goody ideas. Have we not learned from the past. Social worker should have extensive training as they are dealing with vulnerable and often marginalized people. This occupation was dumbed down by the last government and it showed how much they care, they don’t.

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