Social work and Irish people in Britain
Historical and contemporary responses to Irish children and families

Six: ‘Maximising things for your community’: the views of social workers

The second part of this book, which examines contemporary responses to Irish children and families, at first concentrated on dominant approaches to ‘race’ and ethnicity within social work in Britain. It then analysed some of the findings from a survey of directors of social services departments (SSDs) that looked at their organisation’s involvement with Irish children and families in England and Wales. The data generated might be viewed, therefore, as providing a ‘view from the top’. Now, however, the discussion will switch focus and examine the ‘view from below’ and look at what Irish social work practitioners regard as the key issues. The ‘voices’ featured derive from in-depth interviews conducted in early 2003. More specifically, eight Irish social workers involved in children and families social work were interviewed1.

As observed in Chapter Five, almost a quarter of the returned questionnaires in the survey of directors of SSDs came from London. Indeed, more Irish- born people live in London than in any other city except Dublin and Belfast (Hickman, 2002, p 22), and in what follows all of the respondents live and work in the capital. Moreover, in this chapter, ‘social worker’ is used in a broad and inclusive manner. Three of the practitioners had attained a social work qualification – either a Certificate of Qualification in Social Work or the Diploma in Social Work. The other interviewees had different, though related, job titles. Previous research has revealed the relatively high proportion of Irish-born people who work in ‘health and social care in Britain’.

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