Issue no.3/2019 is dedicated to The Challenges of Glocal Social Work Education, Practice and Research, and the first three articles included are results of the papers presented during the 3rd International Conference of Social Work (SWIC) with the same title, held in Bucharest (November 2018). The organisers of this conference, staff from the University of Bucharest Social Work Department in partnership with The Association of Schools of Social Work in Romania, recognised the implications of both global and local challenges for developing social work services, practices, research and education in Romania and the issue is completed with eight more articles from professionals with concerns around this topic. The focus of the conference has thus provided scope for reports of research and reflections on social work in Romania and further afield which illustrate how even local practices are in part shaped by global conditions. Although still essentially a ‘local’ activity – in the sense that its form and functions are determined by local conditions and actors, the social work profession is increasingly challenged to understand the global context – economic, environmental and political – within which national welfare provisions, including social work services, must be developed and delivered. Hence the relevance to social work of the term, ‘glocal’, in which both global and local elements are present with varied implications for local policy makers, practitioners, educators and researchers.
While the papers in this issue are focused particularly on the results of ‘local’ research, two of the keynote speakers addressed the issue of global challenges. Professor Nino Zganec (University of Zagreb) spoke about ‘Social Work Practice and Education under pressure – neoliberal traps and professional solutions’. He provided a wide ranging analysis of the impact of the prevailing neo-liberal political ideology and economic forces which impact on countries around the world, and not least on the most vulnerable members of all societies. He identified how the ‘rule of the market’ has led to significant growth in inequalities within and between countries and a scapegoating of ‘the poor’. Instead of solidarity and cooperation – core to social work values – notions of competitiveness and individualism hold sway with associated risks to many people of precariousness and marginalisation. Meanwhile, associated practices – a focus on economy and efficiency, managerialism and ‘what works’ criteria - have influenced services but also the education of social workers and the forms of research which are likely to be funded. In some countries social work itself is under threat of ‘extinction’ or at least of deprofessionalisation and depoliticisation, including lack of appreciation by professionals of the macro-issues impacting their practices with local populations. These trends are evident in different ways across the globe, including in Romania where establishing social work in the post- communist era has faced its own particular challenges over the past nearly three decades.
Emeritus Professor Karen Lyons (London Metropolitan University) examined a different facet of globalisation of no less relevance to Romania, that of migration – and the implications for social work of the ‘dispersal’ across national borders of family networks. This has given rise to a renewed interest in ‘international social work’ and a more focused approach to the development of transnational policies and practices. These could be recognised a few decades ago in the development, for instance, of the Hague Convention relating to international adoptions, following concerns about the variation in practices and risks to children internationally. More recently, the British branch of International Social Services (an international non- governmental organisation present in many countries) has been carrying out some initial research into safeguarding of children who cross international borders and transnational fostering where kinship care is one possibility for children unable to be cared for by birth parent(s).
Professor Lyons also identified how migration has impacted on the profession itself as some social workers (a very small minority globally) join the international work force and migrate for a variety of professional and personal reasons. International labour mobility has particular relevance to Romania which is one of the European countries identified as a ‘sending country’ – and, while this might have benefits in terms of individual opportunities and remittances to families ‘back home’, there are also costs to those who remain. In the case of social work, and notwithstanding the significant needs of local populations, a lack of job opportunities (in general and in roles for which the social workers have been educated) have led to migration, for instance to the UK. Some hope that such moves will be short term and that returning social workers will bring back experience of value to the further development of the profession and services within Romania. UK models and practises are not immune from the pressures mentioned above nor is ‘all well’ with British social work but it can be suggested that sometimes ‘how not to do it’ also counts as experience!
Moving on to the papers in this issue, these address a range of topics and reflect different research projects. Two of the papers demonstrate the role of doctoral research in contributing to the development of knowledge about and for social work while others illustrate the role of academics in developing the research base and others show how research minded practitioners can contribute to ‘local knowledge’ about conditions, needs and possible developments.
Maddalena Floriana Grassi’s article illustrates how extreme poverty - in the form of homelessness- and other factors arising from neoliberal trends have impacted on the nature of the relationship between ‘service users’ and ‘service providers’ in the particular context of an Italian town. In so doing it also reminds us that homelessness is often just one aspect of a mix of ‘problems’ faced by this vulnerable and ‘hard to reach’ population who have tended to fall outside the remit of social workers in many countries.
In a country where data about the needs of particular communities is limited, the article by Diana Bodi illustrates the role of academics in researching local conditions facing social workers in Romania. She reports on an exploratory case study in which social workers were asked for their views on the causes and consequences of problems facing communities in the rural area and small towns of Brasov County. The social workers’ suggestions for how these issues might be addressed also identify the role of service providers and researchers in highlighting potential directions for social and welfare policy changes in relation to poverty and education
Ionuţ Cioarţă’s article examines the concept of activism and reports on findings from an online survey into Romanian social workers’ views on activism and the extent to which they see it as part of their social work practice. For some this might raise the question as to whether activism is a form of professional intervention or rather something that social workers engage in as ‘active citizens’ – a question which periodically recurs in relation to different practices in different times and places.
The next eight articles are all authored by professionals with concerns about the glocal topic.
In her article, Theodora E. D. Ene is interested in the Romanian social protection system. This has been subjected to a series of reforms, especially since the Government established as key initiatives the de-institutionalization of children from residential facilities. The article reviews statistics, legislative papers, projects and documents that evidence how the shutdown process of public residential services is taking place and what steps have been taken so far by responsible institutions.
Nelida Ghițulescu and Maria Constantinescu reflect on the problem of „crisis”, „decline” and „family disintegration” which appear to be alarming, especially given the condition of a significant decrease in the national birth rate.
Deinstitutionalization, individualization and democratization of family life represent the processes most mentioned as affecting family dynamics in this field of study. Family is increasingly conditioned by economic and social changes, thus, affected by overall evolution of societal dynamics. However, ‚the family’ gives a particular meaning to human existence: it can inspire trust in people, stimulate creativity and harmonise human spiritual life.
Alina-Maria Breaz has analysed attitudes towards certain social categories which influence the behaviour of people to accept or reject some aspects of social life. Measurement of attitudes aims at detecting negative attitudes and trying to correct them through providing additional information. Globalization is viewed as free movement of goods, services and people around the world.
Simona Bodogai, Lioara Coturbaş, Rebeca Cenan are interested in the quality of the Romanian social services. The qualitative research presented in this article aims to contribute to improving standards. The authors have analyzed the situation of Romania regarding the accreditation of social service providers and the process of licensing of elderly care services in residential centres.
Monica Alexandru presents the differences between two phenomena: trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling. The purpose of human trafficking is exploitation of the victim and using it to obtain continuing profits, while the aim of smuggling of migrants is illegal border crossing with no further income for the smugglers beyond each group transported (whether or not they reach their destination safely).
Smaranda Witec focuses on fundamental rights knowledge and empowerment against racism, xenophobia and intolerance and how these affect the overall integration process of non-nationals throughout the European Union. Such practices operate at very different levels of development in relation to different integration systems. The article analyses the mapping of language tuition and social orientation programmes in 10 EU Member States, summarises the best practices in these countries and describes how they have embraced tolerance and mutual respect.
Aurel Bahnaru, Remus Runcan, Patricia Runcan are interested in marital satisfaction as a key to maintaining strong marriages and ensuring individual and couple wellbeing. They suggest that one way to increase marital satisfaction is to address people’s spiritual needs. Religious teaching has long been part of preparing couples for marriage and it can be a defensible form of clinical intervention when counselling couples having problems in their marriage. Faith based interventions can prevent or alleviate marital distress and divorce across a range of marital states, regardless of religion, race and generation.
Misheck Dube analyses social work literature from the perspective of the methods and roles of social work interventions in relation to the psychosocial needs of widows. Currently, literature on methods and intervention frameworks to guide social work practitioners in providing relevant interventions is somewhat lacking.
The paper thematically reviews relevant literature that breaks the status quo by discussing methods and roles that social workers can play in addressing the overlooked and marginalised psychosocial problems of widows with a special focus on poorly resourced rural communities such as Binga District in Zimbabwe.
The content of this issue thus represents scientific and original contributions from academics, researchers and practitioners from social sciences based on two main areas addressing internal and external challenges: glocal challenges to social work practice and glocal challenges to social work research.