Empowering practitioners in social work from rural communities (acronym EPSWRA, no. 2018-1-RO01-KA204-049515) is the name of a project financed by Erasmus+ Programme, KA2 – Strategic Partnerships for Adult Education,run by a consortium of7 Europeanorganizations:
- St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Turnovo – Bulgaria,
- Smart Umbrella Management Solutions E.E. – Grecia,
- Associazione Dar Voce – Italia,
- Asociația Contextos – Portugalia,
- University of Pitești – Faculty of Educational Sciences, Social Sciences and Psychology – Department of Psychology, Comunication Sciences and Social Work – Romania,
- Association for Developing Voluntary Work Novo Mesto – Slovenia,
- The Andalusian Municipality Fund for International Solidarity – FAMSI – Spania.
Social work is admitted as a necessity by most of the world governments, a vital social service for the communities and for their development alongside with health and education, a credible partner of the civilized world.
Rural social work is still relevant for many European countries where there are large percentages of the population living there, characterized by poverty, social exclusion, poor health, ageing, limited economic opportunities, massive unemployment, weak social networks, narrowing of the traditional structures of socialization and solidarity, which expose individuals to vulnerability, unmet needs and social risks.
Good social services have their roots in competent practitioners. The best social services are, in fact, the ones where good practice is established and disseminated and where reflective practice is widely used, meaning to pay attention to situations, problems, opportunities. But this reflective activity shouldn’t be conducted alone, because less alone the practitioner is, the less he is exposed to frustration from failures that occasionally occur and could lead to chronic stress and burnout, visible in behavioural manifestations as: work-related feelings of hopelessness, being overwhelmed, emotional or physical exhaustion, impulsivity, lowered tolerance toward others. All these may result from work environments that involve excessive workloads and little support.
Giving the rapidly changing of social context, PSW face a strong need to develop approaches that respond to the new social challenges of the disadvantaged communities, but mostly to the burn-out phenomenon they often face.
In this context, the project consortium aims to develop a joint non-formal and permanent framework for empowering PSW from rural areas of 7 European countries in increasing their participation to the rural community life and developing complementary skills that help them facing current social problems of the vulnerable groups from their community. Empower gives them tools, capacity and autonomy, is concerned to be with them more systematically, with advices or suggestions. Increasingly, PSW are recognizing the importance of incorporating an international perspective into their practice, research, or educational activities.
The project target group has the following caracteristics:
- social workers or people who have social work responsibilities but which don’t have a diploma as a social worker. Only in special situations, well justified to the lead partner, when the project partners don’t manage to find 50 PSW with the above characteristics that are willing to participate to the project activities, other practitioners in social work field (like social educators, social mediators, psychologists, social pedagogues etc) could be involved;
- working directly with people in need (vulnerable/disadvantaged groups),
- having a formal link to an institution that provides social service in rural / disadvantaged areas (municipalities, NGOs).
The project objectives are:
1. To improve the knowledge and abilities of 84 PSW from the project partners regions and to enable and encourage them to use the community resources and ICT technologies for a better assistance of the vulnerable groups from the rural communities where they work and most of them live;
2. To provide to those 84 PSW the opportunity to create a culture of self-care and reflective practice and to develop and implement innovative practices related to management of stress, frustration from failures and moral distress that occasionally occur in their professional activity and could lead to burnout and compassion fatigue;
3. To foster collaboration and networking within the European social work community and to strength the institutional capacity of 7 European institutions, active in the field of social work education or social inclusion intervention, to develop a non-formal educational network in rural social work research and practice and to create and sustain an effective support mechanism for PSW from rural areas in addressing their professional needs.
The project will address the increase needs of PSW to:
– get new knowledge about other cultures and practices, as a great opportunity to use and develop critical thinking and better practices in their field of intervention,
– reengage with communities, because this is where the reality of service users live is to be found,
– for professional training and for a good collaboration with other institutions/specialists, in facing the difficulties and challenges met in their daily work.