I caught up with Dr Natalie Kenely, who leads the Department of Social Policy and Social Work within the Faculty for Social Wellbeing.
Dr Kenely is particularly interested in researching around areas of management and leadership in different spheres, and more explicitly on transformational leadership in the social field. She studied and continues to explore the concept of emotional intelligence and its impact on working relationships. She is also interested in the personal and professional development of helping professionals and focuses on reflection and reflective practice, resilience, compassion fatigue and burnout.
I asked Dr Kenely how she understands social wellbeing”
“My immediate response to that would be that wellbeing is not just about being happy or content, but also about being actively engaged with life and with other people. It refers to having a decent quality of life. Different factors may contribute to a sense of wellbeing in people, including economic and financial factors, physical factors like age and health, educational and intellectual development, and the environment. However I would say that psychological and personal factors impact wellbeing greatly. These include interpersonal relationships, family life and spirituality.”
I asked her also whether ‘doing good’ in today’s society is still ‘fashionable’. She said:
“Today’s society has redefined citizens as consumers and whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. These creeds are in turn internalized. The rich are convinced that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances. People without a job are labelled un-enterprising. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.”
But is ‘doing good’ still ‘ok’?
“…Yes, ‘doing good’ is not an optional extra. We could discuss who it is that should be doing this good. I assert that we all have the responsibility to do something in our own spheres without removing the important role that the state has in providing the support and the structures necessary to ensure that its citizens thrive, so that no one is left behind.”
I tried to explore with Dr Kenely whether there are variables that if introduced could make society tick better”
“Different people define good and well-functioning societies in different ways. However, there are numerous marks of a good society that we can agree on. These include: justice, equity, rule of law, economic opportunity, reciprocity, prosperity, critical thinking, ethical standards, concern for good citizenship, right to defence, and right to private property.”
I found the following very enticing, when she says:
“A well-functioning society requires that people have a significant set of shared values and interests; that its members live in solidarity and unity. A well-functioning society accepts and appreciates diversity. It allows tolerance and inclusiveness. It is one where rules apply to all equally; where authority is respectful of the people who could in turn respect authority. In a well-functioning society, people have the right to participate in authority and sharing of power. In a well-functioning society, authority is based on merit, fairness, and equality, with free access to opportunity and a strong sense of justice.
“A society can function better when it lives as a ‘true community’, when the common good outweighs the individualistic lifestyle that we have become so accustomed to live. The common good is reached when we work together to improve the wellbeing of people in our society and the wider world. The rights of the individual to personal possessions and community resources must be balanced with the needs of the disadvantaged.”
I tried to understand what according to her, are the main challenges being faced in society:
“Social commentators are claiming that our major social problems grow out of a widespread quest for the satisfaction of individual interests. A society needs to have in place systems, institutions, and environments that work in a manner that benefits all people. These include: a strong and accessible education system, an accessible and affordable public health care system, an effective system of public safety and security, a just legal and political system, an unpolluted natural environment, and a flourishing economic system. These systems, institutions, and environments have a powerful impact on the wellbeing of members of a society.”
Is individualism really an issue when networking and globalization has brought us so close to each other?
“I would dare say that we could probably trace the root of most of the pressing social issues in society to the individualistic people we have become – loneliness, unaffordable housing and rent, migration, drug abuse, domestic violence. Society should strive to be more just, more inclusive, and better prepared to help people who need professional and structural support.”
We moved on to speak about the social work profession. I asked her whether social work and volunteering are one and the same thing:
“’Unpaid voluntary work helped me realise I wanted to be a social worker’. This is the opening line of my story and the story of many of us who are social workers by profession and of students I see coming into our social work degrees till today. Exposure to working with people in need, or with groups and communities that need enabling often sows the seed of a desire to acquire the knowledge and learn the skills necessary to do this on a professional basis. Therefore the link between the two exists, yet they are distinctive.
“A volunteer in the social field is usually a person, often without professional qualification, who enjoys and commits to doing acts of service in the social field. Volunteering provides the opportunity for skill development that would serve very well as a springboard for the entry into formal training in social work. A good number of organisations (both state and non-governmental) also complement the work that their professional workers do with that supplied by volunteers.
“On the other hand, social work is a warranted profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups and communities to improve their individual and collective wellbeing. It is a profession that requires intensive personal and professional development (knowledge, skills and values) acquired through education at a Bachelor’s or Master’s level. The profession is governed by the Social Work Profession Act (Chapter 468 of the Laws of Malta), and has important obligations of accountability, legal responsibility and discipline.”
Another noticeable need in the social field is having social policy makers. Why the need for professionally trained ones?
“The changing nature of social care, its governance and modes of provision, has implications for service-users, professionals and policy-makers. Among these implications is the need to have professionals who are trained and able to take decisions, strategise and implement policies based on information and evidence. Professional social policy makers are located in the administrative structure or the political system of the country, and as such need to be top-notch persons committed to proper governance. Professionally trained and prepared social administrators and policy makers take into account the theoretical developments in the study of governance that underscore major changes in the policy formulation process, in areas that encompass welfare, social and human services, social security, employment, housing, health care and education.”
Is choosing social work or social policy as an area of interest still appealing?
“Few occupations can match the varied work environments available through social work and social policy, which offer a broad range of opportunities and settings. Social workers and social policy graduates are found in public agencies, private businesses, hospitals, clinics, schools, nursing homes, child and family welfare agencies, courts, and countless other interesting workplaces.
“The settings they work in are varied, and include children and family settings, the drug and alcohol sectors, the disability sector, community settings, health and mental health settings, working with the elderly, working with asylum seekers and refugees and various residential settings. Practically all graduates in these two fields find employment before they even finish their studies, and confidently within the first couple of months after completion of the course.”
Courses being offered:
i) Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Social Policy
ii) Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Social Work
iii) Master of Social Work
iv) Master of Arts in Social Policy
Contact: [email protected]
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‘Unpaid voluntary work made me realise I wanted to be a social worker’ – Dr Natalie Kenely have 1556 words, post on www.independent.com.mt at March 27, 2019. This is cached page on Business Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.