March 1, 2016
VIENNA – From January 11 to 16, 2016, three members of AASW traveled to Vienna for a study tour in the context of the ongoing project “Sustainable Social Change in Eastern Neighborhood Countries through Strengthened Active Social Workers and their Associations”. The study tour was led by the lead partner, Hilfswerk Austria International, and was also attended by the partners from respected countries: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova.
Manane Petrosyan, Mira Antonyan and Nvard Melkonyan attended the study tour on behalf of AASW, and were joined in Vienna by the Vice President of AASW, Syuzanna Juharyan. After a welcome dinner of the famous Austrian schnitzel, delegates spent four days visiting various practical and academic organizations of social work.
During the tour there were several service provision methods and structural approaches that were very exciting for the Armenian delegation. First was the universal childcare allowance that is in place in Austria and across much of Western Europe. This social security payment is given to the parents of children, and sometimes given directly to young adults. Besides the positive benefit for families, such a system also expands conceptions of social support from specific needs-based support to a wider social safety net for all citizens of a country.
With the aim of improving the capacity and functioning of AASW itself, it was very informative for the Armenian delegation to hear about how the Austrian Association of Social Workers is run. The Austrian Association focuses mostly on policy work, while the separate Trade Union focuses on the protection of social workers themselves. The sliding scale of membership and good control of standards for practice placements by the association were also crucial aspects that the delegation sees as highly valuable in the Armenian context.
Lastly, the many direct service organizations that the delegation visited during the study tour were inspiring in the varied innovative ways in which they provide services to their beneficiaries. In particular, the Jugend am Werk apprentice program for young adults with special needs organizes vocational trainings and apprenticeships based on both the clients’ available skills and the demands of the labour market. The priority is a high standard of individualized client work and problem-solving along with the client instead of for them. Their innovative housing models for young people with disabilities serve the same purpose: to give young people with disabilities a chance to be included in society and to function independently with the support that they need.
In all cases, the delegation was impressed with social workers’ high attention to the clients’ own needs and desires, and leaving final choices up to the client, whether in the case of young people with disabilities or elderly people in their medical choices. The visit was a great opportunity to learn about innovative models of social work and social support, and the Armenian delegation came away with many new ideas for models of social care as well as developments to be made for AASW itself.
Many thanks to Nicole Bauer, project manager and regional coordinator for the South Caucasus, for organizing such an informative and inspiring study tour. We hope to be back in Vienna again soon!