DECLARATION AND CALL FOR ACTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF SOCIAL WORK FOR LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
The International Federation of Social Work for the Latin American and Caribbean Region is made up of the following organizations in 17 countries: Argentine Federation of Professional Social Service Associations; Federal Council of Social Service of Brazil; College of Social Workers of Chile; College of Social Workers of Costa Rica; Association of Social Workers of Uruguay; College of Social Work Professionals of Puerto Rico; Colombian Federation of Social Workers; Nicaraguan Association of Social Workers “Mildred Abauza”; Dominican Association of Social Work Professionals; Haitian Association of Social Workers; Grenada Association of Professional Social Workers; Association of Social Workers of El Salvador; Association of Social Workers of Panama; College of Social Workers of Bolivia and the Professional Association of Social Service and Social Work of Paraguay.
These organizations recognize that COVID-19 is the largest health and social crisis that has been experienced in this century with enormous and dangerous repercussions for the life, protection and effective exercise of the rights of our peoples. In the framework of this global pandemic we declare and affirm the following:
- Most countries in the world have imposed physical isolation measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Within these measures, the free movement of citizens has been restricted and curfews or limitations have been ordered to prevent people from leaving their homes.
- Although we recognize that some of these measures are necessary, as professionals of work and social service we cannot fail to express the serious social consequences that these measures have.
- The restrictions imposed have caused many people to lose their jobs, significant loss of income and situations that affect the health, housing, education, food and social protection of the impoverished and socially excluded sectors. The measures have also aggravated the already precarious situation of people living on their jobs. In these times of urgency and emergency there has been an ever-widening range of work conditions categories by type of contracts and working hours that destabilize the living situation of the working class. Social work becomes a constitutive part of the contradictions of the inclusive model. Their becoming is directly and violently crossed by the conditions of job insecurity, which not only limit their actions, but also subjectivity and professional gaze on social scenarios.
- The home confinement situation exacerbates issues such as violence based on gender and generations (childhood, older adults) and sexual abuse. The research establishes that the vulnerability and the dangers of harm for these populations increases because the space of the home makes these people invisible in public contexts where they can be visible and protected. Similarly, they are exposed to their attackers in time, space and opportunity.
- The vulnerable situation of migrant populations becomes more precarious in these contexts. Many of them, due to their immigration status, lack access to social benefits, education and health systems. In some countries, the emergency due to COVID-19 has been used as an excuse to intensify ill-treatment and the violation of rights of this population.
- Some countries with privatized health systems lack universal service delivery processes and severe situations of access to hospitals, doctors, laboratories, pharmacies and other physical and mental health services have emerged during the pandemic. In other countries, tests to detect the disease are limited, respiratory assistance machines are lacking, and results are delayed. This adds to the problems of collecting statistics and making epidemiological projections that are vital for the response to this global pandemic.
- A shortage of cleaning materials necessary for contagion prevention measures has been reported.
- Lack of attention to groups with special needs that include, but are not limited to the homeless, groups with functional diversity, isolated communities or groups that depend on daily income. These groups require special measures to care for them, have access to social benefits, information, health services, and other measures to resolve life situations.
- An increase in tension towards individuals, families, communities and organizations as a result of the stressors caused by the disease and the necessary measures to combat it. For many people, these stresses increase their vulnerability to developing emotional conditions or exacerbating conditions that already exist. This includes the tensions of people who work remotely, the education of daughters and sons at home and the lack of access to technological equipment, the Internet and other communication equipment necessary for access to information, distance education and processing aid during the pandemic. Added are the tensions caused by fear of contagion, the increase in mental health problems, the tensions implied by the full care of sons and daughters and other people in a state of dependency.
- In some countries an increase in political corruption is reported for emergency management and the diversion of funds to favor corporations and people related to political elites.
- Many places report poor public communication services and lack of synchronization in the Government’s response. This causes contradictory messages to be delivered from the same political structures and creates tension and hopelessness in people.
- In other countries, health care has been prioritized in a disjointed way of providing social services. In these responses, it is forgotten that the quality of health in countries is determined by other social factors that must be addressed during any healthy response to this pandemic. We note with concern how social work professionals and other professions related and necessary to the public health response are invisible and ignored in government incentives directed at the working class in the emergency response. In many of our countries, social work professionals and other emergency response professionals lack protocols and safety guarantees to protect themselves from contagion.
- We warn about the economic abuse that is being done in particular by companies that sell products or services in the health area (as with the collection of tests or alcohol in gel, for example) as well as in general the increase in the price of all basic consumer products, which worsens the situation of those who have the least.
- Many relief and rescue measures during the pandemic target groups that have always benefited from power and do not address the true needs of working people and groups that have historically been excluded and impoverished. Some countries in the framework of the emergency have created economic support measures for the feeding of families in poverty, but the modality of putting them into force has not been planned. The consequence of this has been that important sectors are excluded from aid and in other cases, that the population is exposed to the spread of contagion.
Based on these situations reported by our organizations and identified in the follow-up given to the response to this pandemic throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, our 17 countries and organizations representing hundreds of thousands of social workers in our region we demand that the governments of our countries:
- Guarantee universal access to health for all people. This includes screening and attention to condition regardless of ability to pay. Actions are required to immediately expand capacity for epidemiological testing and monitoring. This, with attention to areas with high outbreaks of the disease. In countries where there are no universal service delivery systems, it is urged to establish laws and regulations that require the attention of people in any center. Health must be conceptualized and guaranteed as a right and cannot be at the discretion of the private corporations that have made health a business. The pandemic requires universal health systems that can address the social determinants that cause inequality in health.
- Recognize that the social response is essential and indispensable to face the health emergency and, therefore, social services must be articulated and form part of the public health response. For this, it is necessary to incorporate social groups, public agencies that provide social services, communities and professions related to the physical, mental and social health response. In this, the presence of social work professionals is essential in the generation, analysis, implementation and evaluation of social policies aimed at facing the pandemic. Professional actions sensitive to local contexts are included as necessary. This includes professional services from the State and social organizations to deal with the effects of precariousness that restrictive measures that have been imposed in the countries have on people’s lives.
- A basic universal income is guaranteed that is not limited to unemployment insurance and that meets the needs of individuals and families during the emergency. In this, it is necessary to review and reform labor laws, the enactment of laws to protect unemployed people, people who are not dependent and live from their work and the care of people who must work from home. It must be emphasized that the acquired labor rights and guarantees are not lost. States must remain vigilant so that companies do not take measures that harm their employees, now or in the future. Care guarantees must be ensured to the working population of pregnant women, older adults and those with functional diversity.
- Develop priority actions focused on groups that have historically been excluded and in a situation of inequality. In this regard, care must be guaranteed to children and youth, women, the elderly, impoverished sectors, the immigrant population, the homeless, the LGBTQI group, isolated communities, the penal population, centers for the protection of victims and survivors of crime. This includes ensuring access to electronic transfers, health services, medicines, social services, food, dispensing of medicines and food in the homes of groups vulnerable to contagion, protection services for victims and survivors of assault in intimate relationships, sexual abuse and crimes. In these actions, the State is obliged to ensure that the restrictions are necessary and that human rights are guaranteed while fighting the disease. It is urged to create observatories, help applications and quick response. Likewise, the groups and individuals that will need to be addressed from their life contexts must be identified, providing professionals with the necessary biosafety conditions in the context of the pandemic.
- Ensure measures that protect families and individuals from eviction actions, loss of transportation, embargoes and actions of collection of money by banks and credit agencies.
- Include migrant populations in all services and guarantee essential services for this population regardless of their immigration status.
- Guarantee and give free access to the population to the telecommunications systems that are essential to keep the population informed about the disease, education for the protection of contagion and the socialization of available services.
- Provide communication related to the pandemic to report reliable data avoiding uncertainty and stampede reactions that may expose people to infection.
- Guarantee the population’s access to masks, safety and cleaning equipment, water and energy. These measures must be accompanied by a socio-health education component aimed at avoiding infections and the prevention of problems that are generated by containment measures.
- Identify and use social actors that include professional unions to establish response and care teams, guaranteeing the safety of the people who work in the rapid response. The health Federación Internacional de Trabajo Social Región de América Latina y el Caribe 5 response or economic measures teams from the States must work in coordination with the social services teams. The integration of these responses is essential. Lack of integration will aggravate contagions and social problems that arise as a result of measures to contain the disease.
- Maintain transparency, integrity, and accountability in public actions to prevent state resources from being diverted to corrupt activities.
- Ensure access to mental health services and work with campaigns aimed at preventing and coping with social stressors that cause emotional stress.
- Assign resources to municipalities, provinces, sectors and social care organizations. This includes the use of human resources who are not working in person at their jobs and who are trained and have the necessary professional qualifications to provide counseling, conduct needs studies and carry out crisis and socio-educational interventions. For this, the expeditious creation of call transfer applications or electronic communication is recommended to use this human resource in response with a salubrious social approach. This, considering the needs of these professionals and compensating them for the work they do.
- Put in place the state price fixing at the value in which all the products were at the moment of beginning the pandemic emergency. This, both in the prices linked to health and in those of food and hygiene.
- Strengthen and provide resources to universities to develop health, economic, and social actions, research, and responses for the benefit of the entire population.
- Ensure safe working conditions for social work professionals, those professions that must work in response to the pandemic, and other working people who cannot stay at home. This includes making visible the contributions and identities of the social work profession in the physical and mental health teams. Added the need to provide psychosocial support to aid professionals and constant monitoring of their health. All professions necessary for disease response must be compensated and incentives must be developed that help to cope with adverse working conditions.
Finally, we call on all social work associations and academics in Latin America and the Caribbean to join the response actions and serve as guarantors of respect for the rights of populations and social work professionals. We need to maintain our militancy in these times of global crisis so that response actions are not an excuse to restrict and violate rights. The degree of complexity that professional intervention scenarios acquire today, pose the need to broaden the paradigms from which knowledge is referred, to employ interpretive theories of the subject in an articulated and interdependent society based on their own gaze, that is, to reflect on the scope of the intervention models that we are Federación Internacional de Trabajo Social Región de América Latina y el Caribe 6 implementing. Take the qualitative leap that requires acting simultaneously, in the individual and collective dimensions of the subject and in the contexts and dimensions where the subject operates, but also understanding that those dimensions are also ours. Far from restricting rights, we live in times where activism for the defense, enforcement and expansion of human rights is more necessary than at any other time
Larry Emil Alicea Rodríguez, MTS, JD – President IFSW LAC
Dra. Tânia Maria Ramos de Godoi Diniz – Vicepresident IFSW LAC