20th SocNet98 IUW "Social Work and Human Rights - Reflecting Profession and Interventions"


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Workshops 2018


We will  have three time blocks of workshops, please choose one workshop from each time block:

Workshops A1)-A5): Tuesday, 17th, 10-12:30

Workshops B1)-B5): Wednesday, 18th, 10-12:30

Workshops C1)-C5): Thursday, 19th, 10-12:30


A1) Entering the ‘Swamp of Complicity’: The Social Worker between Political Activist and Civil Servant

Richard Groothoff (Hanzehogeschool Groningen, The Netherlands)

Undersigning the certificate of social work is undersigning the declaration of human rights and taking over the torch from the pioneers of the early 20th century such as Jane Adams and Mary Richmond. However, in the daily practice of social work these universal rights are often not even an issue. At least during my practice as a social worker (with refugees!), me and my colleagues were foremost focused on doing it right, instead of doing the right thing. Therefore, the first part of the workshop will focus on an ability which then was missing: moral sensitivity. How do you recognize a situation as morally relevant and what mechanisms tend to moral blindness? Relativism, habitude and supressing moral consciousness, among others, will be issues here. If you have withstood all these mechanisms and beheld your moral sensitivity, then your reward is an, at best, unpleasant position: you are entering the ‘swamp of complicity’: as a social worker, you are aware of the fact, that you are part of a practice where human rights are infringed. Furthermore, you are pressed between two positions which you, as a professional social worker, are not always allowed to take, namely a political activist and a civil servant. In the second part of the workshop I will therefore outline these positions by means of my professional experience as a guardian of refugee minors in the Netherlands. Eventually I will search for a third position to cross the swamp without falling back into moral blindness.

A2) Not a Present, but Fought For: Human Rights, Achieved by Liberation Movements

Prof. Dr. Marianne Hirschberg (Hochschule Bremen, Germany)

Human Rights are not developed by the member states of the United Nations because they thought of them as a nice idea. They were developed because civil rights movements as the women´s movement, the disability rights movement, the gay movement fought for their own rights.

For example, the civil rights movement against racial discrimination, maybe known by famous slogans as “Black is beautiful”, fought successfully against the “separate but equal” treatment of the legal doctrine in United States constitutional law. In theory, it was to create "separate but equal" treatment, but in practice Jim Crow Laws condemned black citizens to inferior treatment and facilities. Education was segregated as many other areas of life. The movement, as well as African liberation movements, were important steps, factors for the development of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1966).

This workshop will debate the development of Human Rights as a political instrument and a theoretically based conceptualization being a foundation for the profession of Social Work.


A3) [Human] Right to Work! Immigrants´ Challenges and Success Stories in Getting Work in Finland

Janina Sjöstrand and Satu Riikonen (HUMAK University of Applied Sciences, Turku, Finland)

In this workshop, we will give a short introduction of different challenges that immigrants and asylum seekers face when trying to enter the labor market. We will give examples of successful methods, which have been used in Finland, in bringing unemployed immigrants and employers closer together. How can we promote immigrants' equal possibilities and rights on the labor market? What can be done to create better employment opportunities and conditions for them? Join our interactive workshop and get new perspectives and knowledge of what work means for human dignity and for integration into society.


A4) Comparing Welfare States – Dead or Alive?

Mette Vinggaard and Trine Østerbye Clausen (University College Lillebaelt, Odense, Denmark)

The theme of the lecture is the impact different types of welfare state have on social work. Three different types of welfare state will be explained, and the impact on social work in different countries will be discussed. Students will be participating in a discussion on the subject by drawing on their own experiences from their respective countries. Using Denmark as a case study we want to illustrate how the Danish social system has changed in the recent years concerning the employment and disability areas and how these changes have had an impact on human rights. The lecture is based on student participation and includes group discussions.


A5) Bridging the Gap – Service User Involvement in Social Work (Education) in Belgium

Bram Roosens (UCLL – University College Leuven-Limburg, Belgium)

The recognition of indigenous knowledge became part of the core competences of social workers at University College Leuven-Limburg. This was translated into the policy and the curriculum through the participation of experts in poverty and social exclusion. These experts are ‘social inclusion professionals’ who finished a four year course. They are the heart of an inspiring methodology, developed in Flanders in 1999 by De Link. This NGO aims to train people in the promotion of their personal experience in poverty in professional contexts like federal public services, social work organisations and higher education. Currently, the experiential knowledge is imbedded in the curriculum of social work. By structurally integrating the experience of poverty and social exclusion, social work education is enabling future social workers to be conscious of several gaps that separate them from service users, to have the courage to be vulnerable and to be ready and willing to invest in relationships.

In this workshop, we will discuss the power of experiential experience and service user involvement in social work (education) based on the experiences at UCLL. This workshop will definitely leave room for debate and interaction.


B1) Ethical Dimensions of Social Work Practice

Prof. Dr. Iris Kohlfürst (University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Linz, Austria), Holger Kühl (Hochschule Bremen), Prof. Dr. Sylke Bartmann (University of Applied Sciences Emden-Leer)

It is characteristic for professional social work to determine its own ethics and values, which of course are based on the human rights and function as a benchmark for professional behaviour. As social work is closely linked to the welfare system of a state and its political and economic circumstances, it not often is easy or even possible to implement the professional ethics. In this workshop we will reflect on the values and standards of social work and how these are (or can be) part of everyday work.


B2) Critical Notes on the Newer Transitions in the Social Domain in the Netherlands

Dr. Nico Marsman (Hanzehogeschool Groningen, The Netherlands)

In recent years, the Dutch social domain was profoundly reformed, and at the same time, this change was accompanied by a major austerity program. My contribution will sketch the outline of this transformation but also give an insight in the underlining political, sociological and philosophical ideas. My point will be that these neoliberal changes in the social domain have grave consequences for a large part of the population in the Netherlands and in particular for the most vulnerable in our society. Their (human) rights have been transformed into provisions. The change as such has been sold to the public as a major improvement because care is now organised in the municipalities, close to the citizen and social workers pay more attention to the strength of the clients to take care of themselves than to the problems they have. Although this rehabilitating strategy has advantages, it also leaves the most vulnerable on their own. It is a rather individualistic and liberal approach that leaves much to freedom of choice. In short, the welfare state retreats and leaves it to the “big society”. Finally I want to pay some attention to the broader picture in which this transformation can be situated with authors like Klein (2017), Kleinpaste (2017), Kok/Wolin (2010), Luyendijk (2017) and others.


B3) The Human Rights Commission in New Zealand: Functions and Interventions

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Schäfer (Hochschule Bremen, Germany)

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. These rights are expressed both in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and through a number of international treaties in this area. Human rights agreements focus on how people live together and tend to set out rules for the relationship between the public and those who govern them.

Examples of human rights include civil and political rights such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, equality before the law and the right to be free from discrimination. Social, cultural and economic human rights include the right to participate in culture, the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to education.

This presentation begins with an explanation of what are human rights. Next the role of the Human Rights Commission in New Zealand is explored. There are two main pieces of law in New Zealand that specifically promote and protect human rights. One is the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (1990). The other is the Human Rights Act (1993). This latter piece of legislation sets out the primary functions of the Human Rights Commission. The main focus of the presentation is on the performance of the Human Rights Commission in terms of how it performs the primary functions set out in the Human Rights Act (1993). This part of the presentation looks at the actual interventions of the Human Rights Commission. There will be an opportunity to explore and practice their main intervention, which is mediation, using specific cases the Human Rights Commission was involved with. The workshop will also provide space for a reflection on where this form of intervention connects to topics and target groups of social work.


B4) Social Work with People Living in Excluded Localities

Prof. David Urban, PhD (College of Polytechnics Jihlava, Czech Republic)

The phenomenon of social exclusion is an actual topic that many people are struggling with. The numbers of people who are socially excluded (living on the border of poverty or in socially excluded localities), or people at risk of social exclusion (people with disabilities, seniors, etc.) are increasing. In the lecture we will get acquainted with the issue of social exclusion on the example of socially excluded localities. We will also discuss the issue from the perspective of social work and human rights.


B5) Refugees and Human Rights

Monique Bas (PXL Hogeschool Limburg, Hasselt, Belgium)

Human rights are the basic rights and liberties to which all humans are entitled. In 1948, many countries signed the agreement about human rights, but the approach of each country is so different that we still have a long way to go. Even political parties within one country have different views on the essence of human rights.

In this workshop, the focus lies on the concept of "human rights" with “refugees” as a target group. The large flow of refugees to Europe came in 2015; it became a daily topic in media and Europe faced a major challenge to overcome. The situation caused great division between countries and political parties. How to deal with refugees in the light of human rights?

In Belgium, new (temporary) centres were established and social workers were deployed in great numbers in order to help the asylum seekers. At the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, Belgium nearly faced the fall of its current government as one political party – the NVA in the person of Mr. Theo Francken, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration – had sent back Sudanese refugees to Sudan, who were arrested and tortured on their arrival. This aspect of human rights has become a very controversial issue in Belgium and forced political parties to reconsider the current situation. The government still considers the advance of the national economy as most important, even more important than the concept of human rights itself. This workshop consists of an elaborate explanation on this issue, also as an example familiar  to other European countries, and will leave room for interaction and debate between students of different colleagues of SocNet98.


C1) Social Work as a Human Rights Profession – Are we There Yet?

Prof. Dr. Christian Spatscheck (Hochschule Bremen, Germany)

This workshop aims to discover the idea of social work as a human rights profession. This concept is formulated in the main international social work definitions as well as in theoretical foundations of social work (e.g. Silvia Staub-Bernasconi or Jim Ife). The concept of the human rights itself is based on ideas of human dignity and universal needs and is specified in several international declarations and documents on human rights. Human rights have to be realised in national and local contexts in societies, communities, organisations, groups, families, and other arenas. Social work can be one actor in the field of realising the human rights in everyday situations and in the lifeworlds of people. But it also faces many challenges and ambiguities when working on this task.

This workshop provides an overview on the concept of social work as a human rights profession. It then gives the occasion to take a deeper look on a choice of different human rights documents for different groups (e.g young people, the disabled, refugees, women, etc.). Finally, it follows the question how the demands of becoming a human rights profession can be realised in different fields of social work and welfare settings, and how limitations and challenges can be met.


C2) Communication is a Human Right – Enhance Your Communication Skills by Using Sign Language

Milena Konrad (Hochschule Bremen, Germany)

This workshop focuses on human rights in the field of social work with reference to people with hearing disabilities. Communication is a basic human right in the sense that it sets ground for participation in societies. Adequate and improved communication skills not only increase, but determine an individual’s participation in an inclusive environment. This workshop introduces you to sign language and its potential to express yourself without (or in addition to) spoken language.


C3) New Pedagogical Steps with NEET Youth in Finland

Johanna Kuivakangas (HUMAK University of Applied Sciences, Jyväskylä, Finland)

In this workshop, the focus is the NEET youth research on young people that are not in employment, education and training and which was carried out 2017 in Finland. The study gave voice for young ones themselves. What is life without work, education or training, and how to manage? What kind of problems do they have, and how do they solve them? In the workshop, we also follow the paths of young people to working life and education, we are exploring participatory and communal methods and discussing the integration of young people into society now and in the future. We also learn new pedagogic ways to support young people in exploring their needs and gaining their human rights.


C4) The Situation of People with Disabilities on the Labour Market – How to Realise the Demands of the “UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”

Pascal Laun (University of Applied Sciences St. Pölten, Austria)

The workshop will, first of all, give an overview on the situation of people with disabilities in the Austrian and European labour market. Their rights are reflected in relation to the “UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. A main focus will be the difficulties they are facing and which policies are implemented to contribute to the fulfilment of the demands of the UN Convention, especially from its Article 27. Afterwards, selected national and international best and possible next practices that try to improve the situation of people with disabilities on the labour market will be shown and discussed with the audience to incorporate their opinion and experience with this topic. Finally we will work out which possible changes in social and economic policy are needed to improve the situation of people with disabilities on the labour market, in accordance with the demands of the UN Convention, and discuss them again with the audience. 


C5) Dilemmas in Social Work

Jana Stejskalová, PhD (University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic)

This workshop will be about dilemmas in social work. It will be talked about dilemmas in social work in different aspects, especially in regard to human rights, to social work interventions (when to start, stop), to the social workers’ role (professionals versus volunteers), and other fields. Participants will also get information about the situation of social work and society in the Czech Republic and a special focus on the children´s views on human rights in this country.



Bremen School
of Social Work