This INEQ Research Webinar on structural inequalities zooms in on unequal welfare provision in diversifying societies by examining the interconnectedness of race, ethnicity, diverse migration routes and language backgrounds, and limited access to support and care. The three presentations in this webinar focus on the lack of support and care provided for young people of colour in the field of mental wellbeing, on linguistically disadvantaged positions in accessing street- and screen level social services by clients marginalized through diverse language and migration backgrounds, and Ukrainian migrant workers and their restricted access to protection and welfare rights.
Tuesday, 29 November 2022, at 14:00–16:00 (UTC+2)
Online via Zoom
The talk is based on an ongoing research project “Racism, Mental Health and Young People of Colour”, funded by the Academy of Finland (2020-2023). The presentation discusses how mental health care today is built on the foundations of racism and colonialism; how whiteness dominates, and systemic racism governs mental health services; and how young people of colour (and professionals working with them) respond to the (lack of) support and care provided and perceived in spaces of whiteness. These questions are answered by bringing examples from the multi-sited ethnographic study drawing on hanging around in schools, youth centres and the third sector associations and charities in the Helsinki metropolitan area and the Greater London, as well as the virtual spaces of youth mental health support.
Being a non-native language speaker creates and reinforces vulnerability in a social service system already defined by different power hierarchies. Despite the fact that social work is essentially permeated by language, language divisions and multilingualism have not received much attention in social work research or practice. Rather than making the system linguistically more accessible, change has typically been expected from the service user. Meanwhile, it remains unexplored how linguistic inequality is linked to other social divides, such as ethnicity, social class, gender, age, disability, and their intersections. During the pandemic, such asymmetries have been further accentuated and highlighted the importance of investigating the different forms of face-to-face, remote and digital social work and other welfare services. The talk addresses the ways in which linguistic vulnerability is connected to other forms of structural vulnerability and inequality in social work and more broadly in social services. The presentation uses data produced through co-creative workshops with social work practitioners, participatory observation of multilingual social service counselling encounters, and individual interviews with non-native speaking service users, namely families with children, families with children with disabilities, young people, and persons 65 and over.
The presentation offers a longer-term perspective to the movement of Ukrainian nationals focusing on the links between post-2022 movements into the EU nation-states and the prior movement of Ukrainian nationals as “migrant workers”. The presentist focus on Ukrainian displacement in the context of Russia’s full-scale invasion overlooks a much longer history of the mundane and relatively invisibilised circulation of Ukrainian migrant workers. The talk shifts the focus away from Ukrainian refugees as the recipients of humanitarian aid and assistance to show how Ukrainian migrant workers precariously employed in the EU service economies are often the ones bearing the costs of social reproduction in the context of Russia’s full-scale invasion. As the temporary protection granted to Ukrainian citizens gives little access to more expansive refugee protection and welfare rights, coupled with a fatigue of ‘host societies’, the question to be asked is who will reproduce the lives of Ukrainians fleeing the war. Drawing on fieldwork in Warsaw in 2020-2022, I examine how the burdens of social reproduction are effectively displaced on Ukrainian migrant communities confronted with the responsibility to ensure their own reproduction and survival.