Social work in partnership with the “excluded”

David Harrison


The terms “marginalization,” “inclusion,” and “exclusion” are expressions of beliefs about the proper relations between groups in society. These terms are official components of European Union social policy. The terms not only raise issues, but they also provide opportunities for the development of social work if they are used mindfully. The preferred developmental role is that of “partner” with the excluded in efforts to gain social justice in relation to society’s economic and social wealth. Examples of developmental social work are presented illustratively, and the challenges of partnership with both the included and the excluded are discussed.
Lithuanians have been extremely successful in the last fifteen years in becoming full members of Europe and the world community of nations. One of the costs of this stunningly rapid transition is that often there has been little time for social workers to analyze and critique many of the European and American policies, ideas, and ways of working that have been adopted. It appears that distinctively Lithuanian versions of social work and social policy have not developed very fully. Many ideas have not yet been examined critically. Examples would include “empowerment” and “social support,” among the imported ideas, and “asocial family” from the Lithuanian.
Now Lithuanian social workers are working in a very international, primarily European environment, and they are using the conceptual scheme of inclusion and exclusion routinely. Like other countries, Lithuanians and others who were dominated by the Soviet Union have some specific problems concerning inclusion and exclusion, and in fact a recent issue of the journal Problems of Post-Communism (2004) focused on this scheme or model. But how critically has the conceptual scheme of inclusion and exclusion been examined in Lithuania? It seems that the prominence of this scheme is well correlated with the acceptance of European ideas about social policy. But what does this model mean, and what are its benefits and limitations?


excluded; exclusion; included; inclusion; inclusive social work

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"Social Work" ISSN online 2029-2775 / ISSN print 1648-4789