Social workers must reject role of agents of state and stand up for ethical practice

Colin Turbett
Colin Turbett

Activists who attended Sunday’s lunchtime fringe meeting “Social work against the state attack on asylum and refuge” heard powerful presentations on the need to support our members in social work to practice ethically when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers.

The meeting was chaired by Chris Tansley, Chair of UNISON Local Government Social Care Forum.
Central to the meeting was UNISON Scotland’s updated Guide “Refuge and Asylum in Scotland – social work support a human right not an administrative burden.”

Narmada Thiranagama
Narmada Thiranagama

Colin Turbett, who updated the Guide on behalf of UNISON Scotland’s social work issues group led off the discussion. He condemned social work practice across the UK which sees social workers being instructed to act not just unethically but illegally, by denying social work support to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers and their children.

“We must not collude with this UK Government’s hostile environment policy, we must not be put in the role of agents of the state. We must follow our codes of practice and our value base and stand up for ethical practice,” urged Colin.

He praised workers who have rejected this role and are building solidarity with those groups demonised by government policies.

Narmada Thiranagama, UNISON Policy Officer then gave a very powerful presentation, drawing on her own experiences as a child refugee who fled with her father and sister after her mother was assassinated.

She told the meeting that she and her family faced many challenges but that things have got very much worse for immigrants and refugees since then, because of the hostile environment policy of the government with the support of the popular press.

Showing a picture of a Jewish child who died in Auschwitz, she called on us all and our members to hear the voices of asylum seekers and refugees but never to forget the silences. Those that are no longer with us.

The meeting then heard from Kate Grant from Social Work Without Borders and from Luisete Batista of the NEC both of whom talked from personal experience and called for UNISON to continue to support and indeed require our members in social work to practice ethically and to campaign for an end to the hostile environment policy of this government.

Local Government Conference Home