When in Rome, you do as the Romans do? Black Africans and social work in the Republic of Ireland
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The research project investigates why a social work response, in neo-liberal times and specifically in the Irish context, is largely ineffective, reluctant and incoherent in providing services to Black African communities.To promote the reshaping of responses to this significant and rising population, the investigation explored the notion of ‘culturally competent’ practice (and underpinning education), institutional service delivery and policy responses. Key findings from qualitative and interpretive analyses suggest that whilst the majority of practitioners accurately define ‘culturally competent practice’ at both practitioner and institutional levels, significant constraints were palpable: 1: At the individual practitioner habitus level, social work education (imbued with a largely monocultural, ethnocentric and liberal Eurocentric worldview) prevented some of them from mentally stepping outside of dominant paradigms. 2: The neoliberal policy ethos spawn practices and institutional cultures reflecting traditional anachronistic theoretical paradigms that valorize uncontested top-down decision making. The resultant rigid hierarchical lines of authority yield organizational structures vulnerable to sustaining ‘inbred, insular monocultural practice(s). Consequently, implicit/explicit ethnocentric biases are largely unsupportive of endeavours aiming to institutionalize anything resembling ‘cultural competence’. 3: An anti-neoliberal onto-epistemic paradigm shift, based on critical decolonial diversity praxis capable of nurturing social work interventions consonant with 21st century multicultural realities privileging radical policy activism, is recommended. However, social workers’ political ambivalence, given their contradictory roles as state agents/progressive social change agents, compromise the solidarity that is vital in order to challenge oppressive policies. This dimension collectively undermines responses in both macro and micro contexts.
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