Armenian association of Social Workers

Statements and positions
POLICY STATEMENT: SUPPORT IS GOOD, PROFESSIONAL SOCIAL WORK IS BETTER
2018 May 06

 

The following policy brief was drawn up jointly by the Social Workers’ Associations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia as well as the Nursing Association of Moldova, stemming from their regional exchange and practical experience gained in the frame of the EU-funded project “Social Workers in Collaboration for Social Change” (2015 – 2018).

Introduction

Social work is a profession aiming at positive changes in the society and empowerment of the people. With this aim, it is automatically contributing to the elimination of social injustices. In the countries with transitional democracies, the profession acquires a crucial function of community mobilization striving to achieve equity and equal participation.

Countries of the post-soviet region such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova with its mounting social problems call for effective social work practice. In these countries, where poverty is widespread and linked with economic deprivation, social exclusion and systemic problems, no other instrument can be equally operative as social work to effectively address them as the profession is about empowerment and strengthening.

Problem Statement

The profession had been introduced in the region within the child welfare reform and proved itself as the most important pillar of the reform. However, at present, ongoing social reforms tend to underestimate the scale of the profession (e.g. school reform, poverty alleviation initiatives are being implemented without involvement of social workers) and fall short in utilizing the full potential of social work in addressing social problems.

In spite of the developments of social work in state and non-state agencies and important contribution in child welfare outcomes, current quality of social work service leaves much room for improvement. Social work has moved firmly into the reactive practice, leaving sustained action unconsidered, leaving the most vulnerable invisible for the welfare system. The welfare policy and services offered to vulnerable people redirect responsibilities towards families who are not in the capacity to deal with the situation they face. Poverty and social vulnerability manifest itself through augmented dependability on social services. In this situation, Social Work has to be the driving force to strengthen families and communities to be able to act independently and inform the state what will contribute to their social functioning. At the same time responsibilities need to be redirected from solely state to other civil actors: communities, non-state and private sector. Effective coordination mechanism has to be established between state and non-state social workers and among all supportive professions. Due to heavy workload, poor working conditions, no clear cut stand point on when to move from mono-disciplinary work to multidisciplinary for the benefit of the service recipients’ quality of social work service leaves much to be desired.

Strategies to Address the Problem

Social workers with its professional mandate to support socially vulnerable with rights based approach have a legitimate say in addressing violations of rights of each and every member of the society, therefore they have to feel secure in fulfilling this role. Currently Social workers, especially in the state sector, are obliged to prioritize their statutory work leading to procedure-following rather than a service recipient orientation. Social Work service is limited to problem identification, leaving service recipient without rehabilitation and resocialization service, at best advocating for the service accessibility that they are eligible to. Only material support provided by the state to socially disadvantaged is not enough to change their social functioning irrespective of any unresponsive attempts to alleviate it by the welfare system.

Social Work has to be strengthened on practice, employment, policy-making and academic domains and social work involvement has to be warranted at all levels of welfare provision starting from the grassroots level ending with the policy level.  Professionalization – educated and skillful social workers is a pivotal and top priority step for strengthening the newly established profession.

In the last three years, Social Workers’ Associations in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and the Nursing Association of Moldova, by support of the Social Workers In Collaboration Of Social Change project, funded by the European Union, Austrian Development Cooperation and Hilfswerk International, have improved their organizational capacities as well as their information services and outreach activities to their 10.500 members and supporters. These organizations are dedicated to promoting and regulating the social work profession and its education and offer practicing social workers in the countries the opportunity to work collectively to improve social inclusion and social well-being of vulnerable groups by giving the profession a strong and united voice.

In the past years, Social Workers’ Associations have become reliable partners in social reform processes that collaborate with state agencies, educational institutions, civil society organizations, service users, and the communities on a national and regional level. The adopted law on social work in Georgia, heavily initiated, promoted and contributed by GASW in the last year, proposes grounds for optimism for a further recognition and regulation of the profession. The situation is applicable also for Armenia, although the adoption of law on social work is still pending (the process started in 2016 with the initiative of AASW), all the stakeholders (Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, AASW, CSOs, etc.) are highly committed to develop system of social services with focus on social work profession.

Strengthening civil society and CSO sector and involving them in delivering social services is another way of mobilizing and optimally utilizing community resources for the welfare of society. The Social Workers’ Associations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and the Nursing Association of Moldova have also undertaken efforts in the last years to intensify collaboration with stakeholders and created opportunities for local CSOs to pilot family strengthening measures enabling them to provide more effective, targeted and coordinated services to vulnerable groups. Within the project the development of social work other than in capital has been supported. Social workers in the regions have acquired skills and knowledge to more effectively serve their clients.

Only social workers with comprehensive knowledge and experience can play pivotal role in the formation of effective welfare policy and bring breath to our slogan - Support is good, professional social work is better!

Action Steps for Social Work Associations

  • Ensure the elaboration of the application mechanisms of the Law on Social Work (in Armenia, Georgia)
  • Get Involved in policy reforms
  • Collaborate with state and non-state actors for social service improvement
  • Continue regional and international collaboration
  • Collaborate with academia for promoting social work research, evidence-based practice and increasing quality of Social Work education
  • Support building capacity of practitioner social workers.

Recommendations:

To government:

  • Support the development of social work profession in all social sectors, especially in health system, education system (school social work), in work with vulnerable people
  • Ensure certain reliable estimates of the overall cost of optimally developed social work component in State welfare system as well as the opportunity costs of its stagnation (lack of further development) in a short and long term perspectives to obtain a clearer understanding of the cost-effectiveness of professional social work in the countries
  • Support the balanced development of social work in the country (among regions and the capital)
  • Include social work programs in priority educational direction to motivate young graduates to enter the profession and return in their regions after the graduation
  • Expedite community social work as the most suitable lens for social development
  • Strengthen working conditions for social workers.

To donors:

  • Create possibilities for exchanging the best practices and piloted models in the region
  • Align designed projects with the existing reform strategies and local social plansActivate donor-government-civil society coordination to address cross-cutting issues.
POLICY BRIEF: Professional Community Services for Family Preservation
2018 May 05

Introduction:

The following policy brief was drawn up jointly by the Social Workers’ Associations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia as well as the Nursing Association of Moldova, stemming from their regional exchange and practical experience gained in the frame of the EU-funded project “Social Workers in Collaboration for Social Change” (2015 – 2018).

Problem Statement:

In the last 20-30 years, the Eastern Partnership countries are in the process of systemic changes due to crisis situations (collapse of Soviet Union, economic crisis, blockade and war). This phenomenon weakened families and increased the number of distance families[1] in the respective countries (migration, unemployment, poverty, etc.). Despite these problems, structured family support services have been largely missing in the region. Emergency responses have been the main approaches in each of those countries to mitigate the afore-mentioned crisis, which was not further transferred into a structured model for family support.

Only fragmental developments took place in the social protection sector so far and not enough importance has been given to prevention and early intervention to family strengthening and family preservation by the governments and by donors. The lack of a holistic approach deepened even more the vulnerability of families and created dependency of families on (monetary) support programs.  

The official data for instance shows that every third child in Armenia is suffering due to child poverty[2], while almost 90% of recipients of family poverty benefit[3] are families with children.  Every fourth child in Armenia is deprived of possibility for cognitive development due to lack of pre-school and after-school accessibility, vocational programs, etc.). In Georgia poverty rates are higher in households with children. In 2017, 33% of all households included at least one child and poverty rate increases in line with the increase in number of children in the household. In 2017 the percentage of children living in poor households increased from 26.8% to 31.6%. Due to absence of kindergartens, around 14 000 children do not attend preschool services. Only 57.7% in the poorest fifth of the households attended kindergarten which is almost 7% lower that of the richest fifth of households. School attendance in mandatory education is 97%, however, every fifth poor child aged 15-18 is no longer involved in education[4].

In Azerbaijan about 10.000 children are still in state run institutions. These children are considered as “social orphans” as most of them have one or two parents[5]. Around 400 juveniles who conflict with the law are registered each year in Azerbaijan.  The cases of “early/ child marriages” i.e. marriage of a person under of age of 18 is yet another issue in the country.  In 2017 the coverage of children with preschool educational institutions (as % to total number of children at age of 1-5 years) is only 13.8 % with 21 % in urban area and 6.7 % in rural area respectively[6].

Even though communities are mandated to create local services and directly support the families, most of these communities lack relevant professional and financial resources. The few community services existing to date are either centralized or initiated externally mostly by charity organizations, non-governmental organizations or private donors. However, many of these services tend to be ineffective, because they were designed without participation of local communities and inter-relation with other programmes. Hence, most communities did not take the ownership of local social services yet.

In addition, the lack of inter-sectorial cooperation between the various actors involved in the family protection field led to an unbalanced allocation of family support services on community, province and national levels. As the result, families that already benefit from the state system tend to be “over-included”, while other vulnerable groups are “under-included” in the frame of these services.

Finally, professional social work with its focus on empowerment to self-reliance is still not widely or not properly used in the countries, neglecting the importance of prevention and early intervention to make vulnerable families lead self-reliant sustainable lives, which is more cost-effective for the social system in the long run.

Strategies to address the problem:

Studies and practical experience gained by the Associations of Social Workers in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and by the Nursing Association of Moldova over the last years and especially in the frame of the EU-funded project “Social Workers in Collaboration for Social Change” (2015 – 2018) on the situation of vulnerable families proved afore-listed problems. As a follow up to this experience, a number of preventive and family strengthening community-based models have been elaborated and piloted by the Associations in several regions of Armenia, Georgia and Moldova. The piloted models aimed at developing family preservation services through establishment of child and family support centers, psycho-social mobile services as well as strengthening of inter-sectorial collaboration among key actors in support of families.

The following lessons have been revealed out of all piloted models:

  • Community-based services are the closest to both families and children, possessing specific local, sub-cultural know-how, and are potentially more effective than purely centrally managed programs not applying participatory approaches in the design and implementation phases.
  • Capacity building of local CSOs and stakeholders on social work knowledge and techniques increased the effectiveness of their work and allowed them to better respond to the needs of vulnerable families.
  • The piloted cooperation among different sectors (e.g. schools, kindergartens, police, local CSOs, local municipalities) allowed to critically consider and reflect on existing working culture and increase mutual trust and ownership of cases.
  • Furthermore, inter-sectorial cooperation on horizontal levels tends to be more cost-effective by more efficiently using available resources and synergies.
  • The applied models allowed beneficiary-families to take the control of their own lives and transform from “passive recipients” into co-partners, thus reducing their dependency on social projects and support.
  • Cooperation among governmental, private and non-governmental organizations allows for new and innovative forms of social services.

 

Recommendations:

Based on these lessons learned, the undersigned recommend to governments and key actors of the relevant fields to undertake the following steps:

 

To governments:

  1. Decentralize social services: create province/marz level/regional social service agencies with relevant funding to coordinate social services provided by state and non-state services.
  2. Introduce a clear mandate and standard operation procedures for multi-disciplinary, inter-sectorial and inter-agency cooperation on local, regional and national level based on the needs of children and families.
  3. Enhance CSO social contracting and introduce transparent and clear mechanisms for selecting, funding and controlling CSOs.
  4. Introduce referral mechanisms with clear mandate/role of each actor in family preservation.
  5. Introduce minimum standards of service provision in the frame of family strengthening and protection (positive parenting, prevention of school dropouts, prevention of school and family violence, ensure need-based service enrollment, etc.).
  6. Increase preventive and early intervention programs and service offers for vulnerable families.
  7. Ensure participatory development of local social plans through involvement of service users, professionals.
  8. Create possibilities for exchanging best practices and piloted models in the region.
  9. Establish community-based, viable social services in particular areas (e.g. for families living below the poverty line, migrant families; families with many children, families with a disabled member etc.).
  10. Introduce and apply professional social work techniques on local, regional and national level for better targeted and sustainable support to vulnerable families and effective inter-sectorial collaboration.
  11. Professionalization of services: Ensure that staff working with vulnerable families has necessary professional skills and knowledge and build capacity of state and non-state services providers through continuous education on social work (on-the job training, mentoring, coaching) with families.
  12. Improve working conditions for professionals (number of caseloads, transportation/communication reimbursement, access to regular supervision and coaching).

 

To donors:

  • Consider local resources (CSOs) in designing of social support programs.
  • Ensure investments to realize introduced standards and procedures and for continuous capacity building of local specialists.
  • Align designed projects with the existing reform strategies and local social plans.
  • Continue investments towards enhancement of community-based networks of social services considering their preventive nature.
  • Activate/improve donor-government-CSO consultation meetings to address cross-cutting issues.
  • Consolidate the resources of donor community: church, diaspora, international agencies and private donors.

 

This statement is accepted and supported by:

 

Armenian Association of Social Workers

Azerbaijan Social Work Public Union

Georgian Association of Social Workers

Nursing Association of Moldova

 

[1] One of family members emigrates to other countries in the search of job.

[2] ArmStat-2017

[3]  Families who are involved in state family benefit system and receive monthly allowances.

[4] UNICEF (2017). Welfare Monitoring Survey

[5] UNICEF (2015) Children by the numbers

[6] AZSTAT, 2017

Social Workers are for changes, especially for POSITIVE changes
2018 April 23

The text is in Armenian.

Message in Solidarity with the Turkish people following the brutal attack on peace demonstration
2015 October 14

The International Federation of Social Workers, European Region sincerely regrets the brutal attack that occurred in Ankara, Turkey on the 10th October, during the demonstration of peace and expresses solidarity to people in Turkey in this moment of great pain and grief.
This terrifying and senseless bomb attack left more than 100 people dead and hundreds injured and we wish to express sympathy to all those who are now recovering from the trauma of having witnessed friends and colleagues being killed whilst engaging in a peaceful demonstration for a better world.
As Social Workers we condemn all types of violence and stand shoulder to shoulder with people struggling for a better life and peaceful future where everybody’s rights are respected and policies are inclusive.
We send our deepest condolences to the families and friends of all those who have fallen victim to this terrible tragedy for the Turkish nation.
Our thoughts are also with our social work colleagues in Turkey who are making every effort to support people in grief during this very difficult time of instability and post trauma.
In Solidarity,

IFSW Europe Executive Committee
14th October 2015

AASW Supports Electricity Protests
2015 June 24

The Armenian Association of Social Workers (AASW) supports the recent protests against increasing electricity prices by 17-22% throughout the country. The price rise will affect all members of Armenian society and above all impact the poorest in our country. For over 30% of the citizens already living in poverty, the price increase will be unbearable, with estimates stating this increase will lead to an extra 40,000 dram (85 USD) being added to the average family’s electric costs per year. In addition, such a price-hike could justify other, similar actions against the people in Armenia in the future. For proof, one must not look far – the current price-hike is the fourth in a series of consecutive price-hikes over the last three years.

Therefore, AASW supports its members, other activists, and all those who have chosen to peacefully join this social movement. We strongly urge for negotiation channels to open between the government and representatives of the social movement, including open access to journalists. Open dialogue will be a monumental step forward towards democratic process between our government and our people.

The Association also condemns the actions taken by the Republic of Armenia’s Police which went above and beyond what was necessary in the case of a peaceful movement. The Association also urges all medical personnel to do what is right and provide timely and appropriate care without discrimination. Reports of excessive use of force, as well as actions taken specifically against journalists and their equipment, are inexcusable and must not continue. The fundamental rights to freedom of speech and assembly must be respected and instances of their breaching investigated. Therefore, we additionally call upon the government of Armenia to ensure an open investigation into the excessive use of force by the police.

Statement of IFSW Europe e.V. supporting the people of Turkey following the Coal Mine Tragedy
2015 May 27

On 13 May 2014 an explosion occurred at a coal mine in Soma, Turkey. According to official statements this was caused by faulty electrical equipment and resulted in 298 people losing their lives.

IFSW Europe e.V. wishes to express our deepest sympathy to the relatives and friends of the victims of this disaster and to all Turkish citizens who are trying to come to terms with this terrible tragedy.

Emergencies such as this give rise to unimaginable trauma for people directly affected who may be simultaneously grieving over the loss of loved ones and grappling with the numerous practical problems that arise from such tragic situations.

Social workers play a key role in supporting people who, for whatever reason, require professional support in addition to that provided by family and friends in the aftermath of disasters and IFSW Europe e.V. also wishes to express solidarity with our colleagues in the Turkish Association of Social Workers who are actively contributing to the emergency services being provided in Soma and the surrounding area.

Two other issues arise from this particular tragedy for us as social workers. We are concerned to ensure that all citizens’ fundamental rights are respected and these include occupational safety and health in the workplace, as required by international human rights conventions. Initial information emerging from the Soma coal mine explosion suggests that there may have been serious violations of occupational safety and health standards.

We therefore call on all relevant state institutions, in particular the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, to investigate this tragedy transparently and start to cooperate with related trade unions and NGO’s to develop a more effective structure to ensure that employers are compelled to take all possible action to assess the risks faced by their employees and minimize the possibility of accidents of this type occurring.

IFSW Europe e.V is gravely concerned over the apparent link between the violation of labour safety and health and neo-liberal policies favouring private rather than public sector developments and and sub-contraction in all sectors which are having a negative effect on human rights in work places.

We are also concerned to ensure that Turkish citizens’ fundamental right to express their opinions freely is upheld by local and national authorities.

IFSW Europe e.V will keep the communication with our colleagues in Turkey who are contributing to the well being of most disadvantaged groups in society.

Discrimination and sexual orientation
2015 April 16

 The current IFSW statement on ethics (which is shared with IASSW) was agreed in 2004. It acknowledges that there was some debate about some of the sections, it was eventually accepted as representing agreement about our ethics world-wide.

Within this document, section 4.2.1 addresses the ethical requirement for social workers to challenge negative discrimination and within that identifies sexual orientation as an area in which such discrimination should be challenged. Whilst it is understand that this was the subject of debate at the time, it was accepted as the shared view by the vast majority of colleagues and stands as the ethical statement. It is in that context that the following observations are made in the capacity as chair of the ethics committee.

In the current debate in Uganda there appears to be a very strong connection being made between homosexuality and child sexual abuse. This is extremely unfortunate, as it goes against all of the available evidence from many countries. The great majority of sexual abuse against children is heterosexual – that is, men abusing girls and young women. Such abuse is a key factor in human trafficking and the foundation of a lot of organised crime, for example. The scientific evidence and argument that was cited by some of the correspondence in this current debate actually addresses child sexual abuse (not homosexuality) in its critique of Kinsey and other early work on human sexuality. (The other argument was not scientific, but took a particular stand on moral grounds and then offered a specific intervention.)

For more information, please, visit  here. 

Statement of IFSW Europe e.V. on Paris attack – JE SUIS CHARLIE
2015 January 12

AASW would like to join IFSW in expressing our sympathy and support to the victims and their families of the recent attacks in Paris. We would also like to express our support for the people of France as a whole and to the social work community in particular during this difficult time. Please see below for IFSW’s official statement.

“It was in deep shock that we saw the news yesterday, January 7th, released by the media, of the terrorist attack to the headquarters of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

This was a barbarian attack that put an end to the most basic human right – the right to life. These are acts that, as social workers, we reject under any circumstances. No reason (be it religious, ideological, political, racial or other) can justify terrifying and criminal acts like this.

Social work is a profession of Human Rights which is based on principles and values that respect human dignity, recognize the right to freedom at all levels including the right to free expression of ideas, in writing, or any other creative field.

IFSW Europe, representing the Social Workers across Europe, deeply regrets the deaths of journalists and other Charlie Hebdo workers, sending heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

We express our solidarity with the Parisian people and the whole of France, and particularly the journalistic community.

A word of comfort and strength to our French social worker colleagues and friends at this time of pain, grief and anger. Your work in times of crisis such as this is of paramount importance and extremely valid.

IFSW Europe raises its voice in defense of Democracy and Freedom and joins the movement of France already widespread throughout the world: JE SUIS CHARLIE

8th January 2015

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