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Applying social work law to asylum and immigration
Applying social work law to asylum and immigration

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Social workers are struggling to find their place in this strongly politicised field of asylum and immigration (Larkin and Maglajlic, 2019). Yet social workers are ideally placed both to challenge existing practice methods and to develop alternative ways of working within a framework of rights, justice and cross-cultural principles. Unlike other professions, social work espouses a holistic approach that breaks down the dichotomies of individuals–society, policy–practice, advocacy–casework. There will no doubt be as much contention within the profession as outside it on these issues, but the debate needs to be engaged.

In this course you have engaged with a difficult area of social work practice where, arguably, the law and social work values are in conflict. It has been suggested that even where the legislative framework seeks to limit social work intervention, an understanding of legal values, such as human rights and due process, can assist social workers to reflect on the space for ethical social work practice that exists within the law.

Key points

  • Statutory social work is limited by law in its ability to address the housing and welfare needs of migrants and asylum seekers.
  • Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees face significant barriers to accessing support services.
  • Social workers need an understanding of immigration and asylum policy and the asylum process, in order to reflect on their professional role in this area.
  • Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to social work services where obligations exist under the legislation relating to children, families and adult care.
  • An understanding of legal and social work values can assist professionals to negotiate the ethical dilemmas presented by this area of practice.

This course is part of a suite of courses on social work and the law. You may be interested in continuing your studies in this subject with the following courses:

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course K271 Social work law.