Austerity, social work and the "backwardness" in intervention: is there a return to assistencialism?
Revisioning social work with individuals, collectives and communities: social work research
Austerity policies that are at place as response to the financial crisis of 2008 have been affecting most European countries, and more deeply countries with overwhelming public debt. The policy measures implied in this approach have direct and, we will argue, pernicious consequences to how social intervention is endeavored with disadvantaged publics. Taking the example of Portugal, we will analyze changes in social policy (as the diminishing cash benefits and the increasing of benefits in kind) and the counterpart of the changes in the social condition of the Portuguese population (unemployment rates, income levels, private debt, and so forth). At the same time, we will look at the macro situation of the country, in terms of the evolution of public debt, of social inequalities and of labour conditions, among others. This will be reinforced with data about the global situation of wealth accumulation and growing and the general behaviour of public debt. We will argue that beneath the situation of crisis and the urge to set up solutions, there is a strong political approach presented as an inevitability which imposes to citizens the continuous decay of the welfare state, the devaluation of the idea of social rights and the precariousness of labour relationships. Under these circumstances Social Work is being pushed into practices characterized by an assistencialist approach, an individualization of the analysis and a blaming bias on the way social phenomena are seen. The paper will conclude questioning if social intervention is going backwards and what kind of challenges it poses to a profession that was recently redefined itself as a human rights and social justice profession.
Austeru«ity; Social Work; Assistentialism; Social Policy