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  • Author or Editor: Dimitra-Dora Teloni x
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According to WHO, on 15 July 2020 there were 3,826 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Greece with 193 deaths.1 During the last months, Greece managed to achieve a low pandemic rate due to measures concerning social distancing and early lockdown. However, there are three other issues that are behind these ‘successful’ policy that are not often addressed in public discourse. First, as Alexis Benos (2020) argues, Greece is “in the margins of the capitalist production”, which, amongst others, entails intensification of mass production and all its ills such as the tragic working conditions. Second, the Greek public health sector has been totally abandoned by the government, which leads to the third issue that the health system would be unable to afford or handle a large-scale hospitalisation of COVID-19 patients. Greece is following the pace of a global trend where health systems across the world collapsed as a result of “40 years of neoliberalism”, which “has left the public totally exposed and ill prepared to face a public health crisis on the scale of coronavirus” as David Harvey (2020a) argues. In fact, since 2019 the right-winged Greek government has deepened the degradation of the public health sector by attempting to merge it with the private sector.

Since the pandemic outbreak, the Greek Federation of the Unions of Hospital Doctors (2020) repeatedly pointed out the lack of staff and protective equipment in the hospitals. The pandemic had made more than apparent across the world the need of a strong public health system. Yet, this is not the priority of the Greek government.

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The following comments will not be neutral not only because the insightful work of the authors – concerning poverty, social policy and social work – has been for years a source of inspiration for me but mainly because this text was written in May 2012 in Greece, where I live and work. More specifically, two years after the entrance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Central Bank with the alliance of Greek elite, the people are getting poorer and poorer day after day. The unemployment rate has risen to 25%,1 while there are constant cuts in salaries and pensions as well as the abolition of benefits. The statistics demonstrate an increase of up to 20% in suicides over the last two years alone. Similarly, the incidence of depression, drug use and mental health problems has increased significantly. Poverty, as Jones and Novak highlight, is not only about the lack of money; it is much more and its effects on people’s lives are more than apparent in austerity Greece.

Faced with such human tragedy you cannot be neutral. This is particularly true for social work. The commitment of social work to social justice and the well-being of people is a clear indication of which side social work should be on. Jones and Novak make a clear call to social workers to use ‘strong words’ and take action against the human destruction.

However, critical analysis of the general context is a basic precondition before taking action. At this point, the authors describe vividly the situation across the globe and contribute to providing the reader with an insightful understanding.

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Greece has been an emblematic case for the European Union’s implementation of anti-immigration securitisation and externalisation. These policies have been translated into non-tolerance and intimidation towards certain populations, which, in turn, has resulted in more and more violent forms of the rejection of migration, which has become mainstream. Parallel to this are racist attacks, pogroms and acts of violence committed by neo-Nazi groups. On the other hand, a growing anti-racist movement has emerged in the form of human rights defence and solidarity networks and anti-racist resistance. This article aims to show the ways in which the rise of situations of rejection and racism have come to challenge the work of social workers and to understand how social work can be rearticulated with regard to its core values of social change and social justice, the antithesis of the profession’s traditional ‘neutrality’ and ‘culture of silence’.

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Amid the unprecedented financial crisis in Greece, which began unfolding in 2010, a major radical reform of the welfare state was implemented. This reform was presented, by both mainstream academics and politicians, as a ‘painful yet necessary’ step due to the broader extraordinary sociopolitical circumstances that can only be compared to a ‘state of emergency’. In this article we argue that, despite the dominant rhetoric about the urgency of these policies, they should be seen as a continuation and further acceleration of previous neoliberal changes in the welfare state. While showing the continuity of the structural reforms, we place particular emphasis on the devastating impact these have had on both social services and service users. In doing so, we use the experiences of frontline social workers who have been at the epicentre of the ongoing reforms, directly witnessing their catastrophic impact. In the light of these overwhelming experiences, Greek social workers have started challenging the orthodoxies of ‘traditional’ social work and engaged with an exploration of alternative forms of social work theory and practice (reconceptualisation).

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