Ongoing Social Work Saga

The latest social work failure – child abused to death – being debated everywhere, is just another symptom of the underlying problem of scientific objectivity getting into too many places where it shouldn’t.

  • “Politician” claims social worker seeing dog mess in room where child is kept (after long history of other visits and issues) should simply have the right to remove the child on the evidence of their own senses.
  • “Professional” responds that only police can force entry and removal and only after court proceeding and only after sufficient “evidence” has been gathered and “due process” has been followed, etc.

Precisely the point. In appropriate cases the evidence of the social worker’s own nose should suffice as due process.

The reason why this is not accepted by the professional institutions, is the counter case. To indemnify against accidentally over-zealous action causing damage where there was none – the usual rights and responsibilities challenge. (The old Cleveland child-abuse scandal, for example.)

What’s missing ? The idea of wisdom. The idea that the individual social worker can (be able, be trusted to) make such a decision. Instead, the idea that evidence and justification is something scientific, to be “tested” by formal process. Well, beyond science it’s not scientific, nor even wholly objective. But sadly, the values of science are privileged, allowed to take precedence over values of humanity, in a social context, everywhere beyond the domain of science in fact.

Social workers need to be entrusted with wisdom and common sense. (So recruitment and training and work assignment, and management, assessment and sanctioning, etc, all need to be based on this. Human values and experience of humanity being at least (if not more in domains like social work) as valuable as formal “qualifications” and knowledge of application of formal procedures.

The reason we have the problems we have is because we don’t trust our social workers, or can’t trust them except through formal – objective, scientific – procedure. Another case of the measures devaluing the work, and tending the work towards lower value, the complete opposite of what is required. The balance of human rights and responsibilities is a value judgement, a human value judgement involving the humanities NOT science alone.

Science is immensely valuable in its domain, but destroys (human) value in domains where its use is misguided.

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