Social Work in an Ethnically Diverse Europe: The Shifting Challenges of Difference

Charles Husband

Abstract

This article addresses the inherently politicised context of social work practice located within the contested logics and values of national social policy and professional values and identities. Noting the key role of social work in delivering the state’s promise of social citizenship, it is argued that the increasing neo-nationalist sentiments and politics in European states generate significant pressures upon the universalist, inclusive, values of social work in a multiethnic Europe. The academic and policy debate around social cohesion is explored to illustrate how an assimilationist drift in multicultural state policies undermines the capacity of social work services to deliver appropriate, ethnically sensitive, services. It is further argued that the pervasive spread of populist counter-narratives to multiculturalism erode support for anti-racist and transcultural social work practice. In this context it is argued that social work must acknowledge its compromised situation and explicitly develop a political agenda committed to guaranteeing substantive equality in service delivery.

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