Social care workers are employed to identify needs, provide care, advocate for others and promote social justice. However, the political climate and wider governmental and societal ideologies of the time have an impact on service provision, how resources are allocated, what is prioritised and what services are focusing on. For example, in Ireland today we see a shift towards the privatisation of services, including the entry of private for-profit services in the sector. Mulkeen (2016 p. 33) terms this the "marketisation" of care, with implications for the standards of care some receive and the wider conditions for social care workers. Social care workers play in a key role in advocating for systemic change and are a critical voice in how policies and wider ideologies are experienced and enacted at a local level.
Another example of the wider socio-political context and it's impact on practice at a ground level is the shift towards recognising children's rights and perhaps more specifically, the right of the child to have a voice in matters concerning them. The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, coupled with significant developments the legislative and policy context, have tangibly illustrated this shift. Examples include: the Childcare Act 1991 and the provision of Guardian ad Litem to represent the voice, wishes and feelings of the child within court proceedings; the integration of article 42A into the Constitution in 2021, thereby strengthening children's rights; and the placing of Children First on a statutory footing though the Children First Act 2015 to name but a few.
More broadly, other contextual factors that have been influential include the migration crisis within the EU and the expansion of social care services into working with unaccompanied minors, the global pandemic and it's far reaching implications for how care is delivered and experienced, and the impending regulation of the social care sector and what this means for the social care sector as a whole.
Additionally, when we were developing this framework, we wanted also to draw attention to the inclination towards individualisation, whereby explanations for a person's behaviour or situation are positioned with the individual (for example, adversity in childhood), without enough discussion about the complex interplay between the individual, and their wider social and cultural context. Wider societal factors shape the opportunities that some have and others do not, and these chain reactions generated at a systemic level can have far reaching consequences across the lifespan. What we mean here are experiences of inequality, disadvantage, marginalisation and social exclusion- experiences that are generated through an unequal allocation of resources at a societal level. Therefore, the framework challenges students to think about the wider systems that privilege some and exclude others, and where power fits in the context of the work. Students finely tune their skills to work in a person-centered way. This aspect of the framework requires them to not just see the individual but to see the individual-in-context; to understand the person in the context of their wider experience and journey to date.
If you are interested in reading more about socio-political context you can find some resources here:
Hanlon, N. (2009). Valuing equality in social care. Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies, 9(1), 6-14. Doi:10.21427/D7X72R. Available from: https://arrow.tudublin.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1116&context=ijass
Mulkeen, M. (2016). Going to market! An exploration of markets in social care. Administration, 64(2), 33-59. DOI:10.1515/admin-2016-0015. Available from: https://sciendo.com/article/10.1515/admin-2016-0015
An interesting and thought provoking article from Dr. Sindy Joyce on the systemic oppression of Irish Travellers: https://www.iccl.ie/news/whrdtakeover/