S U E T H O M P S O N
I became a social worker for a particular reason. That was to play a part in challenging the ageist attitudes and practices that I had long observed as being widespread in eIdercare. I like to think that I achieved this to a degree in my practice, particularly by helping those whose right to self-determination was not being respected, to fight their own battles. Making a difference at a broader level proved more difficult within the constraints of a local authority role, but I have retained a sense of professional pride, and the hope that I am still making a difference, by doing postgraduate research and encouraging critical reflection by co-writing social work texts.
I chose Traffic sign because …
… It speaks to me of the power to portray particular perspectives of ‘reality’ as how things are and should be – in this case, that old age is necessarily about decline, rather than growth. It reminds me that, where dominant perspectives become ingrained, the stereotypes they support become accepted as the norm. And where this happens, a challenge to negative stereotyping is unlikely to happen without consciousness-raising happening first. But it also reminds me that we social workers should feel empowered to be part of the process of critically exploring taken-for-granted negative assumptions about particular groups of people – we have the skills and we have the commitment to promoting social justice. Yes, we can ‘help individuals across the road’ when they are experiencing difficulties but we can do much more.