Social workers and the Border

 

Sir, – The ongoing public debate about the impact of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union has largely focused on economic and political ramifications. Worrying social consequences have been, for the most part, overlooked.

Just as frictionless cross-border travel is fundamental to the lives of many of our service users and their carers, cross-border co-operation is central to the delivery of key aspects of social work services. Worryingly, Brexit pays scant heed to the significance of established working practices, or to the freedom of movement enjoyed since the delivery of the Belfast Agreement.

To our knowledge, little planning has been undertaken to explore how the UK’s departure from the EU will affect social workers. As chairs of our associations we have jointly written to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Tánaiste, urging both to consider the implications for the social work profession and to mitigate impacts.

Social workers have long benefitted from common rules governing the recognition of professional qualifications in EU member states which enable those trained in Northern Ireland to register and work in the Republic of Ireland and vice versa.

Clarity is required regarding how both governments will continue to facilitate this practice following March 29th, 2019.

Information is also needed to address the complex unknowns for “Looked After Children” currently placed in kinship care arrangements on a different side of the Border from their parents. There is ambiguity surrounding how Brexit will affect the existing processes in place between the authorities which facilitate these placements.

Furthermore, our members are concerned about the future of public protection arrangements once the UK is no longer included in European Arrest Warrant arrangements, which up to now have facilitated cross-jurisdictional monitoring of offenders by criminal justice social workers in Northern Ireland.

The challenges facing the social work profession, North and South of the Border, are many and diverse. It is essential the British and Irish governments adequately assure social workers that their interests, and those of their service users, will be afforded the attention they rightly deserve in the ongoing Brexit negotiations. – Yours, etc,

AINE McGUIRK,

Chairwoman,

Irish Association

of Social Workers,

Dublin;

COLIN REID,

Chairman,

British Association

of Social Workers

Northern Ireland,

Belfast.