Contemporary Social Policy Concerns in Canada: Social Work Responses.
Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov
Faculty of Education and Social Work
Thompson Rivers University
Recently I had the honour to present with my social policy students at the British Columbia Political Studies Conference in Thompson Rivers University. I had an extremely successful year teaching Canadian Social Policy course where 60 students completed current research on social policy concern in Canada and two students decided to share their exemplary work with conference participants on an early Friday morning presentation. Jeffrey McNeil was a wonderful chair of the session and welcomed everyone to the panel and provided detailed feedback to all participants.
I had an opportunity to share about the course assignment in a presentation Social Policy Concern paper: Social work students’ responses to a contemporary concern in Canadian social policy. The assignment is used in teaching undergraduate social policy course that allows students to design individual research in the area of students’ interest to address specific social policy concern. The procedure on how students complete their multi-part assignment was discussed, including the selection of social policy concern using the 6A criteria for researching existing piece of Canadian legislation: availability of services, accessibility of services, the acceptability of services, affordability of services, appropriateness of services, and adequacy of services. I shared the examples of social policy concerns selected by students and implications for social work practice in addressing current Canadian social policy concerns.
After my presentation, Saima Farooqi shared her research on Availability of Legal Status for Stepparents in Alberta in a Parental Role for Children Under 18 Years in Blended Families. Saima emphasized that stepfamilies are increasing in number in Western societies. Remarriage and cohabitation are a rising phenomenon. Blended families are fast becoming an important family structure that results in complex relationships. Adults and children are challenged by the ambiguous roles that they may encounter in the new family dynamics. Canadian policy has also failed to recognize the current reality of multiple parents and parenting legally. The Family Law Act of Alberta lacks in defining and stating rights and roles of stepparents living in blended families, albeit child support obligations are outlined. Also, there is much literature and research providing support for ex-partners and their children, but there has been less focus on blended families, their systematic rights, roles, and expectations. The objective of Saima’s presentation was to contribute towards understanding the influence of social perceptions on blended families, and the significant issues faced by stepparents in blended families in their day-to-day lives regarding their rights, roles, and expectations. Based on a critical perspective, the Ms Frooqi presented proposals to overcome limitations in Canadian policy to create availability of a structural framework that acknowledges and appreciates blended families as a norm in our society. She also discussed the policy implications for needed changes in Alberta Family Law.
The final presentation in our panel was given by Rayell Sellars-Sarnowski on Inappropriate criteria for registration of status Indians. Rayell shared with the audience that the adverse effect that the Indian Act has had, and continues to have, on Indigenous peoples is palpable. Ms Sellars-Sarnowski provided insight on how inappropriate the policy is, an in-depth exploration of the implications that Indian status, as defined in the Indian Act, has on Indigenous peoples in Canada. The inappropriateness references the use of ‘Indian’, and the exclusion of Métis and Inuit peoples from Indian status. The Indian Act also inappropriately provides the government with the right to unethical management of status Indians, due to delegated authorities that exclude Indigenous leadership. While it can be seen that there is a need for revision to the Indian Act and Indian registration, many who are uninformed about the issue may be resistant to the changes. Registration concerns should be taken into consideration by the government of Canada to end the systemic oppression of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. This discussion may ensure that Indigenous status could transform into appropriate and beneficial legislation. It could potentially be the beginning of equity for Indigenous peoples in Canada.
After all presentation, the audience had an opportunity to ask questions. We had a lovely discussion, and some students in the attendance expressed interest in taking social policy course in the future as they also want to make a difference in social-policy making process. I want to thank Terry Kading for supporting our panel and encouraging TRU undergraduate students to share their research. Thank you also to everyone who came to our early Friday morning session. I hope Saima and Rayell will continue advancing their research and policy advocacy work and will present in the future conferences as everyone who was present commented on their excellent research topics and persuasive arguments in using social work lenses to influence Canadian social policy. I was extremely proud of my student work and hope more social work students keep challenging existing inequalities within Canadian social policy outside of the classroom. The assignment will be continuously used in the future offering of the course as a tool to ignite student interest in current Canadian social policy concerns.
I wanted to visit Japan for a number of years as I had very good friends whom I met originally in 2012 at the social work conference in Stockholm and wanted to learn from them about social work in the country of raising sun.
Thanks to ANA airlines I was able to accomplish my dream and even fly in business class to both Australia and Japan during my winter grading retreat. Because of the very cheap flight (thanks to the ANA error) I was able to buy Japan Rail Pass and explore the country from Sapporo to Kagoshima by train.
I want to thank Dr. Mai Yamaguchi and her family as well as Social Work faculty of Japan Lutheran College for sharing with me information about social work education in Tokyo, Dr. Minori Utsunomiya for the tour of Nagoya and explaining the Mental Health Social Work in Japan, Yuichi Shinada for a tour of Tokyo Medical University Hospital and the role of social worker in health care system of Japan, and Professor Shin Yamada for a visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial and detailed explanation about Burakumin discrimination and social security law in Japan. I am extremely grateful for such a wonderful welcome in Japan and definitely will be back as there is so much to learn.
Here is the list of 65 social work programs I mapped during my visit:
Japanese Society for Study of Social Welfare website suggests that “Formal social welfare/work education in Japan originally developed as a field of higher education after the 1920s. The Japanese educational system was reformed after World War II and a modern higher educational system was established. The Japan Association of Schools of Social Work was founded as a voluntary organization in 1955 by 17 schools. In response to the aging society, the Certified Social Worker and Certified Care Worker Act became effective in 1987 and the Association became larger and larger. As of March 2010, it included 148 four-year universities, 13 two-year colleges, and 8 vocational schools. Other organizations, such as the Japanese Association of Schools of Certified Social Worker included 271 member schools. As for the output of all these education courses, there were 134,000 certified social workers in 2010”.
Another aarticlethat provides the history of social work profession in Japan is written by Ito, F. (2011). The Rise and fall of professional social work in Japan: Evolution, devolution and neo-liberal turn?. Journal of culture in our time, 123, 5-25 and is fully available online
Some comparison is provided betweek social work in South Africa and Japan in the following article: Sakaguchi, H., & Sewpaul, V. (2011). A comparison of social work education across South Africa and Japan in relation to the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training. International Journal of Social Welfare, 20(2), 192-202.
One can also learn about Japanese students perception on international social work practice from the following article: Saito, Y., & Johns, R. (2009). Japanese students’ perceptions of international perspectives in social work. International Social Work, 52(1), 60-71.
The future challenges of social work education in Japan is also well researched: Sasaki, A. (2010). Social work education in Japan: Future challenges. Social Work Education, 29(8), 855-868.
I will keep updating this post with new information on social work / social welfare in Japan.
I have been quite fortunate to travel to Australia multiple times, first during the SWSD Conference in Melbourne in 2014 and second time during grading retreat in 2017. I have visited Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Gold Coast while meeting with social work educators and learning about Schools of Social Work in Australia. Special thanks to Drs. Lorraine Muller and Jim Ife as I was able to meet with them a number of times during my visits to Australia and learn a lot about current issues in Australian social work education. I also had an honour to learn from Jim’s (Community development in an uncertain world) and Lorraine’s (A theory of Indigenous Australian health and human service work) books and highly recommend them to my students.
My original connection with Australia started in 2001 when Dr. Yaro Starak taught our group of social workers in Lviv NationalPolytechnic University the Human Behavior and Social Environment course (first photo). During my second visit to Australia I was able to reconnect with Yaro in Brisbane (second photo) and had a great discussion on development of social work education in Ukraine (still need to map all Schools in my birth country).
Here is the list of 30 Schools of Social Work in Australia:
The development of social work profession and education in Australia is well documented.
The Australian Social Work Education and Accreditation Standards (ASWEAS) set the principles and graduate attributes for social work education in Australia. They are the criteria for the Australia Association of Social Workers (AASW) accreditation of professional social work courses across the country. The current accreditation standards are under revisions and all updates are posted online. One can also found online the list of all social work accredited programs.
Discussion Paper prepared for the South Australian Child Protection Systems Royal Commission Social Work Education on Professional Development and Registration: perspectives, issues and implications also lists all the Schools of Social Work in Australia and provides brief overview of each school as well as current research on social work in South Australia.
An excellent book by Lawrence, R. J. (2016). Professional social work in Australia. ANU PPress is fully available online and provides “the first historical account of the social work profession in Australia. It traces the development of social work education and professional social work in the larger, more industrialised societies overseas before the same developments began in Australia in the late 1920s, and it notes the part played by overseas influence in the subsequent 30-odd years”.
Another article by Mendes, P. (2005). The history of social work in Australia: A critical literature review. Australian Social Work, 58(2), 121-131. Is a helpful resource to learn about “both the strengths in the existing literature, and also to the major gaps in our knowledge of social work practice, education, activism and professional organisations in Australia”. All issues of Australian Social Work journal is also available online.
Careerfaqs.com.ua provides a helpful resource on how to become a social worker in Australia. The website emphasize that “social workers play a variety of roles in the community working with people to improve their wellbeing. This can include individuals, families or groups. They can be employed in a variety of fields, such as child welfare, education, health, the justice sector or disability services. These roles are typically found with government agencies, in private practice or in the not-for-profit sector. In Australia, to work as a social worker, you will need a Bachelor of Social Work or a Masters of Social Work degree”. It also lists all the key resources for social workers in all parts of Australia.
I will keep updated the post and adding relevant resources related to social work education in Australia.