This week IFSW was alerted that social workers in Colombia have been demonstrating in the streets against their government’s educational reforms that have reclassified social work away from the field of ‘social sciences’ and intends to move their Social Work Education Departments under the health and well being disciplines. Colombian social workers fear that moving social workers education under medicine, dental studies, nursing and medical diagnostics will place social work as a ‘service profession’ for individuals rather that one that’s focuses on the whole of societies structures.
The Colombian government has stated that it is following the recommendations of UNESCO the United Nations body that advises governments on educational classifications and categories.
Responding to the call for action from the Colombian social workers, IFSW’s UN Geneva Team met today to develop an advocacy plan at UNESCO. This will include providing evidence on social work’s responsibilities to societies wider social structures and that the profession’s classification should sit in an educational context of wider social sciences and humanities.
IFSW President Ruth Stark said, “The UNESCO Classifications of Education are a critical issue as they move social work’s primary focus from the social to a profession allied to medicine. This is a regressive move and contrary to all our work in the past few years focusing on the social work role in promoting sustainable, inclusive communities as the backbone to economic health. It moves the focus back to a personal, individual level of intervention rather than transformational change to equable and inclusive societies”, she said.
Rory Truell, IFSW Secretary-General, said: “All societal structures need to focus and contribute to developing social systems which support people’s interdependent wellbeing and social rights. If we want to achieve a sustainable and fair world for all, building social capacity must be a priority throughout the whole of society. Social work is involved at every level, promoting and facilitating preventative approaches to social problems. We advocate for shifting the paradigm away from the practice of just offering services once the damage is done. Such a service culture has a colossal human cost spreading pain and hurt across communities and generations with enormous economic costs”.
“It is important that the future workforce is skilled to be able to contribute to the agenda of societies social development. UNESCO needs to be informed that the social work profession not only has connections with health, – it has also its roots and outlook in sociology, anthropology, economics, social psychology, law and the wider humanities’, Dr Truell said.
The Federation will commence an advocacy plan including the IFSW UN Geneva Team in Geneva urgently making contact with UNESCO.