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  • Poverty, Inequality and Social Justice x
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Around 10 and 15 million Roma live in Europe, where cultural diversity is among the European Union’s officially declared values. However, the Roma are not recognised as representatives of this idea, but have become the European “Other”, perceived as a threat to the dominant society both with their nomadism and their settlement. Roma “otherness” was, and still is, seen in explicit forms of racism in the past (geographical persecution, assimilation strategies, genocide, sterilization) and more implicit forms in the present (nimbisms, ignorance, special school placement). The article looks at these aspects of Roma oppression but also points to examples of good practice from the perspective of both a ‘community social work model’ and a ‘cultural advocacy’ perspective and suggests these are the most successful social work perspectives working with marginalised Gypsy communities.

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There is a notable growth of racism across Europe including expressions of antisemitism. Social work literature has a strong basis in anti-racist theory and practice; however it largely excludes the issue of antisemitism. This chapter explores why this might be the case and develops an historical and theoretical understanding of antisemitism to address this gap in social work theory. It argues for a distinction to be made between ‘old’ antisemitism which is based on hatred towards Jews and ‘new’ antisemitism which conflates anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel with being antisemitic. Lessons for social work are drawn out which focus on the inclusion of Jewish experience and identity as part of a broader approach to diversity and multiculturalism alongside a recognition of the politics of antisemitism and how to fight it.

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This chapter looks at the strategies for implementing anti-racist practice. In the 1980s the anti-racist social work movement argued that effective anti-racist practice would also require the significant recruitment of black and Asian workers who could challenge practice on the frontline and change the culture of social work organisations. This chapter revisits some of the early 1980s debates and traces the history of the anti-racist social work movement and the role of early leaders of that movement. But rather than an overt focus on policy regimes and bureaucracies, which many in the 1980s became concerned to focus on, it argues we need to look at the practices and the networks of anti-racist practitioners ‘the catalysers’ who can bring about significant organisational changes to services.

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This chapter looks at the growth of ‘xeno-racism’ – a ‘non-colour-coded’ racism that is based on conceptions of immigration status, culture and religion. Racism is not a static concept. Within social work understandings of ‘race’ and racism Peter Fryer’s (1984) important three-fold distinction of the racisms of slavery, empire and post-war migration has often been utilised. Martin Barker (1981) in the early 1980s was already arguing that there was clear evidence of a ‘new’ racism that focused on culture (and was exemplified by Thatcher’s infamous ‘swamping speech’ in the run up to the 1979 General Election). The chapter argues this process has continued and deepened as a result of political and economic changes over the last 25 years. It is exemplified in media debates, in policy frameworks around asylum seeking and in state controlling frameworks for so-called ‘problem communities’. The relevance for social workers is obvious: the victims of racism may be black and Asian men or women, or they could be Polish or Romanian workers, or people from Roma communities or perhaps, most demonised of all, people from Muslim communities from anywhere across the globe. In practice and in understandings of the world there is the need to be aware of the structural and institutional barriers that social workers, social care workers and social work service users from these racialised groups will face.

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Social workers are required to be aware of changing social contexts and their impact on service user communities. Many social workers writing about anti-racist practice in the 1980s would have followed Sivanandan’s (1982) critique of local authority ‘multiculturalism’. Sivanandan’s case was that too often policies of multiculturalism were reduced to a celebration of ‘steel-bands, samosas and saris’, whilst institutional and structural racism was ignored. But from a perspective contemporary, the attack on multiculturalism has shifted the political terrain. Multiculturalism is being used as a code word by politicians to attack migration and the pressence of minority communities in Britain itself – themes that are addressed in this chapter in a nuanced ‘defence’ of multiculturalism in the face of the present political assault.

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The ‘Prevent’ policy agenda was rolled out in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in London. It was an amalgam of internal security policy, social inclusion policy and a political strategy to ‘win hearts and minds’. Yet it was built upon a series of worrying assumptions about Muslim communities and ill-defined definitions of ‘extremism’. Teachers, probation staff and social workers were all tasked with ‘soft’ policing the policy agenda – raising issues for social workers around the PCF domain 2 (working in ways that are reflective of our values and ethics). With the election of the Coalition in 2010 the policy was redirected and its connection with ‘social inclusion’ dropped. It remains a policy framework that is ‘mainstreamed’ within a range of local authority measures but its rationale and its assumptions remain deeply controversial.

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In an era of “superdiversity”, social workers and other professionals increasingly find themselves working with people subject to immigration control. And, increasingly, the demands of immigration control encroach on workers’ ethical and professional responsibilities towards their service users, with the expectation of compliance with an exclusionary and dehumanising discourse. This chapter explores the tensions between this discourse and social work’s commitment to principles of human rights and social justice, exploring strategies by which social workers can resist both the racism inherent in immigration controls and the managerial imperatives which insist that, in an age of austerity, emancipatory and anti-oppressive models of practice are not viable.

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This book draws together a range of writers to consider aspects of ‘race’, racism and contemporary social work. It considers the development of anti-racist social work theory and practice within the shifting terrain of the politics of ‘race’ within modern Britain. Included in the collection are chapters looking at developments within anti-racist social work theory and practice, including discussion of the impact of neo-liberalism on black and Asian communities, the strengths and problems associated with notions of ‘cultural competencies’, the development of an analysis of ‘xeno-racism’ and considerations of the role of black and Asian workers as ‘catalysers’ of change. Significantly for a text on anti-racist social work and there are chapters on anti-Semitism, anti-Roma racism and Islamophobia. Further chapters include discussion of asylum-seeking young people, debates around the politics of ‘street-grooming’, a qualified defence of ‘multiculturalism, an analysis of the impact of austerity measures on services for minority communities, a policy analysis of the implications of the ‘Prevent’ counter-terrorism strategy and its implications for welfare workers, and an analysis of the role of migrant workers within the social care sector. Collectively the book opens up significant areas of debate and analysis within social work that students, practitioners and researchers need to fully engage with. It intends to act as a stimulus for further research and debate in this important area of social work theory and practice.

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Contemporary issues and debates

Without a doubt, structural and institutionalised racism is still present in Britain and Europe, a factor that social work education and training has been slow to acknowledge.

In this timely new book, Lavalette and Penketh reveal that racism towards Britain’s minority ethnic groups has undergone a process of change. They affirm the importance of social work to address issues of ‘race’ and racism in education and training by presenting a critical review of a this demanding aspect of social work practice.

Original in its approach, and with diverse perspectives from key practitioners in the field, the authors examine contemporary anti-racism, including racism towards Eastern European migrants, Roma people and asylum seekers. It also considers the implications of contemporary racism for current practice.

This is essential reading for anyone academically or professionally interested in social work, and the developments in this field of study post 9/11.

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This book draws together a range of writers to consider aspects of ‘race’, racism and contemporary social work. It considers the development of anti-racist social work theory and practice within the shifting terrain of the politics of ‘race’ within modern Britain. Included in the collection are chapters looking at developments within anti-racist social work theory and practice, including discussion of the impact of neo-liberalism on black and Asian communities, the strengths and problems associated with notions of ‘cultural competencies’, the development of an analysis of ‘xeno-racism’ and considerations of the role of black and Asian workers as ‘catalysers’ of change. Significantly for a text on anti-racist social work and there are chapters on anti-Semitism, anti-Roma racism and Islamophobia. Further chapters include discussion of asylum-seeking young people, debates around the politics of ‘street-grooming’, a qualified defence of ‘multiculturalism, an analysis of the impact of austerity measures on services for minority communities, a policy analysis of the implications of the ‘Prevent’ counter-terrorism strategy and its implications for welfare workers, and an analysis of the role of migrant workers within the social care sector. Collectively the book opens up significant areas of debate and analysis within social work that students, practitioners and researchers need to fully engage with. It intends to act as a stimulus for further research and debate in this important area of social work theory and practice.

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