Press Release from the IFSW Delegates Meeting 2014 Madrid, Spain
Social workers from the length and breadth of the European Economic Area (EEA) are assembling in Madrid for the annual Delegates Meeting of the European Region of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) which takes place between 16th and 18th May. The meeting is being hosted by the Federation’s Spanish member, Consejo General de Trabajo Social.
In the forefront of a packed agenda will be the impact swingeing cuts in public expenditure in the wake of the financial crisis are continuing to have on those requiring health and welfare services and on dedicated professionals struggling to satisfy the needs of increasing numbers of people without the necessary resources. This situation disproportionally affects those citizens who are already most disadvantaged and excluded and diminishes the level of support available to people of all ages at times of ill health or other crisis.
Poverty levels in the EU have increased by 10 million in 5 years to reach 124 million – one European in four. In addition, “there are now wide inequalities in the distribution of income in the EU: on average, the top 20 % earned 5.1 times as much income as the bottom 20 % in 2012.” and “unemployment has increased sharply in Europe, from a rate of 7.1 % in 2008 to a peak of 10.9 % in 2013” or 26 million people. (Taking Stock of the Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth – European Commission – 5th March 2014).
For the most part social work takes place behind the scenes in the privacy of people’s homes and behind closed doors in other settings such as hospitals and residential homes. However the present situation is so desperate, particularly in the Troika countries – Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Cyprus, that many social workers have felt compelled to take to the streets to voice their concerns through campaigns like the successful Orange Tide movement here in Spain.
IFSW Europe’s President, Cristina Martins, said “Social workers are gravely concerned over the effect this situation is having on the well-being of so many citizens, evidenced by spiralling suicide rates, family break-up and a host of other social problems, many of which will have life-long consequences for those affected. Failure to support people at times of need not only results in avoidable suffering and distress but invariably gives rise to greater problems in the future. The draconian cuts that have been made in social services represent false economy as additional expenditure will almost inevitably be required in the longer term.”
Social workers have a duty to protect children and vulnerable adults and to challenge the abuse of human rights wherever this occurs. An issue likely to be prominent in the meeting is that when they do so they often find themselves in conflict with people in positions of power and authority including their own employers. Greater recognition of the onerous responsibility social workers carry on behalf of the rest of society will be demanded along with an assurance that they do not continue to be unfairly victimised and branded by ill-informed commentators as troublemakers who are somehow or another responsible for the complex and challenging problems they dedicate their professional lives to resolving.
A message to incoming Members of the European Parliament will be formulated at the meeting calling for radical measures to put the European 2020 Strategy to eliminate poverty and social exclusion and reduce inequality back on track along with action to ensure that social workers receive the support and resources they require to deliver the high quality of services that all citizens are entitled to expect at times of need.
16th May 2014
For further information contact: Cristina Martins, President of the IFSW European Region [International Federation of Social Workers – Europe e.V.] E-mail: Cell phone: + 351 936272618 Web: www.ifsw.org/europe