Getting It Right For Children In Need

Michael Gove gave a speech today where he said the government will undertake the same revolution in social work as they’ve done in teaching. Now whether that fills you with enthusiasm or horror, is a choice I leave to you, I just want to pick up on this section:

There is another area in which social work training deserves to be challenged.

In too many cases, social work training involves idealistic students being told that the individuals with whom they will work have been disempowered by society. They will be encouraged to see these individuals as victims of social injustice whose fate is overwhelmingly decreed by the economic forces and inherent inequalities which scar our society.

This analysis is, sadly, as widespread as it is pernicious. It robs individuals of the power of agency and breaks the link between an individual’s actions and the consequences. It risks explaining away substance abuse, domestic violence and personal irresponsibility, rather than doing away with them.

Social workers overly influenced by this analysis not only rob families of a proper sense of responsibility, they also abdicate their own. They see their job as securing the family’s access to services provided by others, rather than helping them to change their own approach to life. Instead of working with individuals to get them to recognise harmful patterns of behaviour, and improve their own lives, some social workers acquiesce in or make excuses for these wrong choices.

Previously social workers saw their clients as victims of an unfair system. Now we shall teach them to take command of their fate. That’s the grossly simplified idea he states. As a Christian though, what do we say? Is it our young people and their parents fault or is it the unfairness of society? Are people victims or are they perpetrators? Well, both obviously.

The sinful fallen nature of the world means everything is broken. Yes, the systems your young people will encounter do not work the way they should. Yes, the weak (the young, the alien, the infirm) are oppressed by the strong (the rich, the native, the healthy). Yes, they are victims of sin and a broken world. And yes, they are also perpetrators. They do what is harmful, they seek things that will harm them, they point the finger at others and say it’s not my fault. They push others down to be lifted up.

In this way every man and woman is a little Adam and Eve, both victims of Satan’s lies and deceptions but also perpetrators of sin, sinners who lift their fingers and place the blame of their sin on someone else’s shoulders; “the woman, she made me eat”, “the serpent, he lied to me”. Praise the Lord that our God comes down and willing bears the penalty of our sin when we seek to hide it.

(The guy who really opened my eyes to this victim mentality stuff was Duncan Forbes in this great talk from the Reaching the Unreached conference. Worth a listen to if you see it in your kids.)