It has been a long time between writing; a long time between blogs; but I have been doing a lot of reflecting in this time.  In recent weeks I have been reflecting about being back into lockdown and rolling back into working on zoom; noticing how proficient we have become, I have become, with using zoom at a medium. What happened to that young supervisor who thought supervision would not work online because being in the same room was the only way for this kind of work to happen? Do not get me wrong, I still prefer to be in the room with the person I am working with, but I have learned to adapt, evolve and make use of what we have.  It has been a learning curve for many of us I suspect.

So yes, I have been busy with working online since we moved back into level 4 and then level 3 lockdown and now we are in level 2 work continues, both online and in person.  And as the reflecting continues; noticing I am busy AND thankful. Thankful that my work could move online, thankful that I have a warm house, full fridge, live in a semi-rural environment where it is easy to walk and get out and about without seeing or interacting or being close to others, and thankful that I can still earn enough money to pay my bills.  Thankful for all those front line workers, going out each day to make my ‘comfortable’ possible; thankful for the sense of having a government who cares enough about people to make some hard decision for us all (which I do not envy). Thankful that I live in the part of the world where over-crowding is less and high density living is low, and where access to vaccines is possible and relatively quick and painless. So much to be thankful for.

More recently there have been several other matters to ponder too. Like:

  • How will I respond to working with those who have not been vaccinated when I have high health risk potential despite being vaccinated myself?
  • How do I support the vaccine reluctant to be heard and to also be encouraged to see the benefits of this public health response?
  • How do we balance personal rights and collective responsibilities, and what does that even look like in our supervision conversations?
  • How much do my supervision conversations mirror the conversations that are happening out in the community between my supervisees and the whanau and communities they work with?
  • How do I continue to encourage those I work with in supervision to take care of themselves, their clients, their whanau, while also considering their responsibility around compliance and self-determination?
  • How do I feel about compulsory/mandated vaccination orders?
  • How do I balance my personal opinion with a professional stance that may mean I must be more careful and considered on matters associated with vaccination and public health?
  • How do I support and advocate for the rights of those who may later be marginalised by their decision to not vaccinate?
  • As social workers there are times when our role is to support social cohesion, and work in ways that can appear as social coercion and yet we also have a responsibility to have an eye on social justice and to challenge injustice systems. Where does this fit in the land of pandemics and government announcements that ask for a one size to fit all?
  • And then I also ponder the new stats and data emerging for Maori (and Pacific and disability communities) that our current situation is creating and see that we are still creating the same story over and over and over; even though this may have been the opportunity to create different stats, different outcomes; outcomes based on self-determination/Tino Rangatiratanga for iwi Maori.

And so, you can see that although it has been a long time since I have put pen to paper to blog, my mind has not been as blank as my page. There are questions and challenges, ethics and dilemmas to be contemplated by this pandemic and our responses.  Issues which must be grappled with at individual, organisational and professional association levels. (And I note since I began drafting my blog that both ANZASW and SWRB have made statements/guidelines to this effect for social workers) What is the right response for me as a social worker, and is this another of the many examples when personal bias or opinion must be put aside? How do we navigate our way through this? And how do we still hold respect for those whose way though this is different than our own?

I ask myself all these and many further questions as a social worker……and then I ask them again as a supervisor and in my supervisory relationships. (Unsurprisingly this has been the topic in supervision discussions of late in one way or another.)

I have no answers but do think the questions and the discussions need to continue. I do think that honest safe and robust discussion on these matters is the way to find our way through.

What are your questions? And how are you finding the safe and robust space to navigate our way through this new world?

Ngā mihi,

Karen

2 thoughts on “I’ve been thinking…..let’s talk….

  1. Kia ora Karen,

    These are great questions and you are right that they are part of conversations many of us are having in our workplaces and in our supervision sessions. There are certainly some meaty ethical tensions in all of this to ponder!

    There are some really useful resources to help us navigate as professionals. As you say the guidance from both ANZASW and the Board is helpful, the Human Rights Commission has put out a series of statements about how human rights might be impacted and the tension between the collective and the individual. The Workshop has some helpful tips about how to talk to people about vaccinations. https://www.theworkshop.org.nz/publications/how-to-talk-about-covid-19-vaccinations-building-trust-in-vaccination-a-guide-2021

    And ultimately, for me the mandate for us as social workers in Aotearoa NZ is to work towards socially just solutions. For me this means taking into account existing inequities and making sure we are not contributing to the maintenance of these in any way- and hopefully promoting their end.

    Thanks for posing the questions. I’d be keen to see what others think about the responsibilities of social workers in this global pandemic response.

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