Pyramid of Cards

A V A

J A M E S

I am a Newly Qualified Social Worker in England who prior to my studies had found a passion for helping others. Living in a diverse world where there is poverty, oppression and discrimination, families continue to have unmet needs. 

Becoming a social worker has been rewarding as I have played a positive role in providing families with support. Unfortunately it has also been disheartening due to barriers in social work practice. 

Partnership working has supported social work intervention by providing high quality joint care.

I chose Pyramid of Playing Cards because …

You’ll need more than one card to successfully play a game, or in my case build a house of cards. 

The lower section of the pyramid represents the family and each card above that represents the support to help them reach self-actualisation. 

In social work there are limitations that can hinder the method of intervention, such as lack of funding, non-engagement from families and lack of resources and services.  

Each limitation leads to unmet needs and therefore limits the families’ growth and development.

Even with the breakdown of support the family will remain a part of the pyramid, at its fundamental base. As the lead professional, it is the role of the social worker to work in partnership with the family – to help put the cards in place – and other professionals to continue to support the family to reach self-actualisation.

Martyrs' Monument

T A R U N

B A N A R J I

S A G A R I K A

B A N A R J I

We are social work activists living in the Manicktala neighbourhood of Kolkata (Calcutta), India. We work with groups of young people and children in the neighbourhoods and in rural villages in West Bengal. We have developed a wide variety of programmes that include scientific modelling, dance, mime and yoga, song and drama, artwork, football, and campaigns for women’s rights and environmental concerns. Our work is part of a broader movement – Bijñāna Bhavna(science thinking). We catch young people at risk of falling out of school or getting into trouble and help them towards a trade and self-employment. We are green socialists and we believe that social work must have the raising of political awareness at its heart. 

We chose the Martyrs’ Monument at Gandhamarden Hill because …

… it represents, for us, the importance of social workers fighting for social and economic justice and working directly alongside people to achieve this.

Gandhamardan Hill is in the state of Odisha (Orissa) in India, part of a range of mountains that spreads through three districts – Bargarh, Balangir and Noapara. In the southern part of the hills is Harishankar, with a waterfall, and the northern part of the hills is Nursingnath with Kapilbhara Fountain. There are 22 naturally occurring waterfalls and 500 species of medicinal plants, of which 42 are very rare. These plants are in dense forest and jungle where 50,000 tribal people live. These tribes people are the Kondhs, the Oraon and Obadas.

From the epic story of Ramayana we find one story that Hanuman brought this hill from the Himalayas to save the life of Lakshman by using bisaya koroherbs – life-saving herbs found here in this district. 

In 1983 the Government of India and State of Odisha decided to explore the region for bauxite ore. The BALCO company starting blasting dynamite at the mouth of the sacred Kapildhara waterfall and immediately the waters stopped flowing. 

We took part in the movement to stop the stripping of the mountainside and the desecration of the waterfalls. Many people were shot dead and they have become martyrs to the struggle. Ultimately the Government backed away and mining was discontinued in this particular location. But in recent years there is again pressure to resume mining activity. 

Social work activists are always needed.

Mirror

R O S I E

K A V A N A G H

I was 19 when I chose a career in Social Work, coming from a family of nurses, the concept of caring for people was in my blood! I have predominately worked with adults and now work as a full-time Practice Educator in the voluntary sector.

I chose Mirror because…

In my direct work with vulnerable adults I have been committed to empowering people, I have encouraged service users to ‘look in the mirror’ for them to identify their existing strengths/skills and to look beyond an illness or diagnosis they have been labelled with.

The mirror symbolises ‘reflection’ to me, I have continued to develop my critical reflection skills and spend a lot of time evaluating my practice and searching for new, more creative/effective ways to support students. I have explored my identity in great depth and support students to do the same, to help them consider any values conflicts and learn about oppression and discrimination.  

I love teaching students about reflection, I encourage my students to use the ‘mirror’ to consider what type of Social Worker they want to be and use reflection as a tool to learn about themselves and improve their practice!

black bin bags

B E R Y L

S E A M A N

My mother had always “done charitable works” and my father was a JP (Justice of the Peace, a magistrate) in Liverpool in the 1950’s. In my teens the new universities were offering sociology as a degree course and this seemed the obvious course to do but in fact I ended up at Nottingham University, reading Social Administration which meant I only had to do a one year Post-Graduate Diploma to become a fully qualified social worker – at the age of 22!

I chose Black bin bags because …

In 1974 I was working for Sheffield Family and Community Services (Social Services) with a generic case load (in other words, working with all client groups in a neighbourhood ‘patch’). I had a young black teenager under supervision to me and in residential care and when he turned 16 I moved him from the Children’s home to a bedsit in Hyde Park Flats (a big council estate near the centre of Sheffield – now private flats!)

When I collected him from the Home all his belongings were in a black bin liner. I had a few items to help him set up his new flat but it was sparsely furnished and I remember leaving him there all alone with his bin liner.

I look back now and shudder at how naïve I was to think I gave him anything approaching adequate support and the black bin liner sums this up. I do remember later there was a charity set up to provide suitcases for Care Leavers.

trove

D E B B I E     W A T S O N

My background is as a school teacher and a sociologist. However, as a childhood academic in a department of social work and social policy, my work has increasingly focused on identity and wellbeing for children in care and adopted children. I passionately believe that academic understandings of narrative, identity and the role of tangible objects in memory work can be used to improve the outcomes for children and enable them to have a better sense of their story and their reasons for being in the care system, and that this has potential for lifelong positive mental health. Embedding objects within life story work offers massive potential and agency for children.

I chose trove because …

It is itself an object that enables children to cherish their objects and to build understandings of their care journey through these loved items.

Social workers focus on constructing a coherent narrative for children in the care system and this often takes the form of a life storybook (particularly for permanently placed children). But, through my research with adopted children and those in care, adopters, foster carers and social workers, I have been struck by how important tangible objects also are in enabling children to fill gaps in biographical memory and retain connections with past carers and family members.

This feels like a resource that we should be utilising and, importantly, places the child in the centre of the story making about their own life. But all too often children’s belongings become lost, displaced, damaged and without reminders from carers, their stories and connections to the child’s biography become lost. I have also been struck by the many accounts I have heard of children arriving in new placements with bin bags and scruffy cardboard boxes of ‘stuff’ and carers having to make sense of precious items. Things are important for all humans and connect us to relationships and events in our past. Surely this is crucial to preserve for the most vulnerable children in society?

trove has been co-designed and tested with many children and young people. It is a combination of a beautifully designed comforting storage bag, which is soft and enables things to be stored safely, and a bespoke multi-media storying app that is used on a mobile phone integrated within the fabric of the bag. Children can attach lots of different stories to loved objects using Near-Field communication technologies available on the phone. Working with creative designer Chloe Meineck, colleagues in computing science at Bristol University and three social work partners, we have now developed a prototype that we hope we can get into manufacture so that children who most need this tool are able to engage with.

trove represents this journey for me and I feel very privileged to have worked alongside amazing children and young people who have helped to design it.

Luxury Objects

D U D U Z I L E   S O K H E L A

I’m a social worker and served my people working in different non-profit organizations in South Africa. I’ve been inspired by my deceased sister and my living mother’s altruistic causes in the community I grew up in. Throughout my career in social work serving humanity, I have witnessed and worked with people living in abject poverty, need, want and social exclusion. I’m author ofa book entitled “Why Urban Rural Under-developed Communities Will Never Develop in South Africa. Mooiplaas Informal Settlement: A Relevant Case Study In the Front Lines.” 

I chose Luxury Objects because …

… For me they represent corruption and it is corruption that, above all, social workers need to fight in my country, South Africa. It costs the South African gross domestic product (GDP) at least R27 billion ($2bn) annually as well as the loss of 76,000 jobs that would otherwise have been created, according to the Ebrahim Patel, the Minister of Economic Development. Corruption is the weapon of mass destruction in my country: and the effects are felt worst by the poorest. One billion rands have been lost in what is called ‘state capture’, but corruption cannot really be quantified, it cannot be touched, and thus invisible, it is particularly insidious.

As an example of corruption, an investigation into VBS Mutual Bank found that at least 53 people and companies may have benefited from the looting of R1.9 billion ($130 million). Looting of state resources has a negative impact on efforts to fulfill the basic needs of the poor who remain the most marginalised segment of the population and the ones with whom social workers most desperately need to work.

Corruption happens over a cup of tea or coffee in opulent, luxurious places. Those involved in corruption normalize it and eventually entrench it, as those who corrupt and those who are corrupted collude in order to make it happen. It is invisibly eats away at the coffers that should be used for the needy and indigent.

When the ANC won the first democratic elections in South Africa with a landslide victory, they had promised the majority of South Africans – those Black South Africans that were swimming in the river of poverty and indignity – that they will improve the quality of their lives standard of living. Instead the officials began leading opulent lifestyles and disregarded the needs of the masses. Corruption, in the form of extensive and intensive looting of state coffers, continues to rip at the fabric of society. It makes the poor poorer and the rich richer – a gap too wide to fathom. How does society reconcile the two?

Social workers should advocate strongly and in a very real sense for an end to corruption, and for inclusiveness in the mainstream economy and for equal opportunities for the poor. Corruption is a weapon of mass destruction in the lives of the poor and indigent in South Africa and social workers must oppose it at every turn.

One Hundred Cabinet

       J O A N N E    L O

146 Joanne Lo    146 100 Cabinet

I had hopes to be a school teacher since I was a small girl. Yet, with my first experience as a “relief” teacher for a week, I felt disappointed as the students always request for notes only, but not knowledge. It came to my mind, “what can I do for the young generation to make them better apart from being a teacher?”

I got to know the social work profession when I joined an activity organized by a youth center. It seemed to provide an alternative for me to help the young generation. Such experience navigated my social work journey, departing from my History major. Although I had studied different disciplines – such as History, Psychology, and Law – I discovered that I am passionate about youth work all along. Now, I have really become a teacher – to teach social work in the University. This prior knowledge and experience inspired me, along with the synergy of various disciplinary knowledge on my youth work practice and teaching. Creativity and flexibility are significant in facing our ever-changing society.

I chose One Hundred Cabinet (for Chinese herbal medicine) because …

… social work is a multi-faceted discipline, just like a “one Hundred Cabinet”. This Cabinet is a big storage space with over a hundred small boxes inside. Each box contains two to four types of Chinese dry herbs for medicinal purposes. These boxes have clear herb labels. The practitioner will pick up the required herbs according to the prescription by the doctor to create the mixture of Chinese herbs dosage (usually more than ten ingredients). After boiling over an hours with water, these herbs will become a bowl of black and bitter herbal tea.

Similarly, I think social work involves knowledge from social science disciplines such as psychology, sociology, etc. We do the work from remedial, developmental to advocacy. The intervention approach from individual casework, group work and the macro perspective to social policy change. The target groups are multiple and diverse in cultures and ages. All these variations create hundreds of combinations for the nature of our work, like the magic of the “One Hundred Cabinet”. Different ingredients are put into this cabinet systematically. It all depends on how the practitioners pick up the necessary elements they need to synergize their unique social work practice. We do not know what the outcome will be. Social work is hard to be defined by a single format or approach. After all, it is for the betterment of our service users.