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June 20, 2019
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Social worker associations ask Czech city not to "abuse" social work

18.6.2018 13:58
Demonstration against impoverished Romani tenants being evicted, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, 14 June 2018. The sign reads
Demonstration against impoverished Romani tenants being evicted, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, 14 June 2018. The sign reads "DON'T PUNISH THE NEEDY, DEAL WITH THOSE WHO CASH IN ON THEM, A GHETTO IS NO SOLUTION" (PHOTO: Jan Mihaliček, Romea.cz)

Three associations of professional social workers - the Association of Educators in Social Work, the Social Workers' Society, and the Professional Chamber of Social Workers - have sent open letters about the housing crisis developing in the Czech city of Ústí nad Labem, and news server Romea.cz is publishing both letters in full translation below. One of the letters is addressed to fellow social workers there and calls on them to perform their jobs in accordance with "social work values" when fulfilling the city's commissions.

The other letter is addressed to City Hall and urges the officials there not to "abuse" social work as a pretext for taking actions that will conflict with the interests of the people now being evicted. News server Romea.cz has been informed of the letters by Radka Janebová of the Association of Social Work Educators of the Czech Republic.

"We are following with concern how the City of Ústí nad Labem is doing its best to turn social work against its founding principles and to turn social workers into instruments for 'cleaning up' situations or for bullying people who are impoverished and 'inconvenient'," the letters read. The associations are appealing to the social workers hired by the city's Department of Social Affairs to make sure that, as social workers, they comply with their obligation to address negative discrimination against people and unfair policies and practices.

The associations say this is mainly about designating certain neighborhoods of the city as areas with "increased incidence of socially undesirable phenomena", where, given an absence of alternatives, there are grounds to assume that there will be significantly negative impacts on children endangered by social exclusion as a result of that move. "We call on the social workers hired by child welfare services, as social workers who are employed by a body of the state administration undertaking child protection through powers delegated to them, to not be afraid to disagree with the city government in this matter as, in its independent scope, the local authority is unambiguously acting against the interests of these endangered children," the letter reads.

In the letter addressed to City Hall, the associations conclude the following:  "We believe you will reassess your attitude and that you will provide social workers with real instruments that will align with the principles and values of social work and aid the inhabitants of the residential hotels being evicted with finding dignified housing. At the same time, we believe you will reassess the city's social policy and aim it more at prevention than at repression."

Open Letter to Social Workers in Ústí nad Labem - 14 June 2018

Dear Colleagues!

After the Ústí nad Labem City Hall designated 22 areas on its territory has having an "increased incidence of socially undesirable phenomena" and deprived [new arrivals] to these areas of their eligibility for housing benefits, approximately 230 people (including families with children, senior citizens, and invalids) will now have to move after two commercial residential hotels close there on 30 June. The City of Ústí nad Labem is currently distancing itself from solving a situation that it has contributed to creating by announcing that it is not liable to provide substitute accommodation and is just obligated to provide social advice or social work to those affected. For that reason, the city has asked social service providers to perform an investigation and to begin social work aimed at aiding people who are in danger of homelessness.

We are following with concern how the City of Ústí nad Labem is doing its best to turn social work against its founding principles and to make social workers instruments for "cleaning up" situations or bullying people who are impoverished and "inconvenient".

The city itself has contributed to the creation of a situation in which more than 200 people are losing their housing, and now it is also asking social workers to address the problem by providing clients with advice individually. Essentially, the city is forcing these social workers to make those who are the victims of the city's policy responsible for solving a problem that exists through no fault of their own. An unrealistic commission has been placed on the backs of the nonprofit organizations and social workers, one that will be difficult to satisfy. This problem cannot be addressed at the level of consequences, but must be addressed at the level of its causes (which are, apparently, ethnic discrimination against these people in the area of housing and the city's policy in the field of accommodation and social housing).

We welcome the fact that the Counseling Center for Citizenship and the People in Need organization are criticizing the city for not having developed a crisis plan and that they are calling on the city to take a responsible stance toward addressing this crisis. However, we are also appealing to all social workers to do their best to facilitate the maximum possible participation by the evictees in addressing [the causes of] this problem. We remind them that social work is based on the values of democracy, human rights and social justice and that a key rule of the ethical behavior of a social worker is the participation of clients in solving their own problems (see the Code of Ethics of a Social Worker in the Czech Republic).

We are appealing to the social workers currently employed by the city's Social Affairs Department to pay attention to the fact that, as social workers, they are obligated to address negative discrimination against people and unfair policies and practices (see the International Code of Ethics for the Professional Social Worker). Here this is mainly about the declaration of areas with increased incidence of socially undesirable phenomena in Ústí nad Labem where, given an absence of alternatives, there are grounds to assume that there will be significantly negative impacts on these children endangered by social exclusion.

We call on the social workers hired by child welfare services, as social workers who are employed by a body of the state administration undertaking child protection through powers delegated to them, to not be afraid to disagree with the city government in this matter as, in its independent scope, the local authority is unambiguously acting against the interests of these endangered children.

Through this open letter we are expressing support for you fulfilling the ethical mission and values of social work and we are offering you our collaboration in performing the difficult role of social work.

Association of Social Work Educators/Social Workers' Society/Professional Chamber of Social Workers

****

Open Letter to the City of Ústí nad Labem -  14 June 2018

Dear Madame Mayor, Dear Councillors and Assembly Members of the City of Ústí nad Labem,

We are turning to you in the matter of your having entrusted social workers with solving the situations at the Klíšská and Modrá residential hotels. After City Hall announced 22 areas on its territory as having an increased incidence of socially undesirable phenomena and deprived any [new arrivals] to these areas of their eligibility for housing benefits, two commercial residential hotels announced they are closing as of 30 June 2018 and approximately 230 people will have to move elsewhere (including families with children, senior citizens and invalids). The City of Ústí nad Labem is distancing itself from solving the situations that it has itself instigated as a consequence of adopting those measures [of a general nature] by stating that it is not liable to provide these people with substitute housing, just obligated to provide them social advice or social work. For that reason, the city has also asked social services providers to perform an investigation and begin social work aimed at aiding these people who are in danger of losing their housing.

As professional associations of social workers we are following with concern how the City of Ústí nad Labem is doing its best to turn social work against its founding principles and to make social workers instruments for "cleaning up" situations or bullying people who are impoverished and "inconvenient".

In a situation where municipal governments in particular have the competencies and opportunities available to them to deploy systemic measures to aid people, the city is asking social workers to address a problem affecting approximately 200 citizens by advising clients individually. The city is essentially forcing these social workers to make the people who are the victims of the city's policy responsible for solving problems they did not themselves cause. You have given an unrealistic commission to local nonprofit organizations and social workers that it will be difficult to satisfy. This problem cannot be addressed at the level of consequences, but must be addressed at the level of its causes (which are apparently ethnic discrimination against these people in the area of housing and the city's policy in the area of accommodation and social housing). We are aware that the current situation is partially due to the housing policy of the previously-elected local governments throughout the entire Czech Republic, which have implemented privatization of their previously-held housing stock without also adopting any binding social housing concept guaranteeing aid to persons endangered by social exclusion.

Social work is based on the values of democracy, human rights and social justice (see the International Code of Ethics for the Professional Social Worker) and for that reason we are joining the call from the Counseling Center for Citizenship/Civil and Human Rights and from the People in Need, o.p.s. organization that you, as representatives of the city, take a responsible position toward addressing the crisis situation for the people in the residential hotels being closed.

We believe you will reassess your attitude and provide social workers with real instruments that will align with the principles and values of social work and aid the inhabitants of the residential hotels being evicted with finding dignified housing. At the same time, we believe you will reassess the city's social policy and aim it more at prevention than at repression.

Sincerely,

Association of Social Work Educators/Social Workers' Society/Professional Chamber of Social Workers

redakce, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Housing, Socially excluded localities, social housing, Sociální dávky



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