Social Austerity – Child Protection and Human Rights

Dr Mary Baginsky

Dr Mary Baginsky

Senior Research Fellow at HSCWRU, Dr Mary Baginsky, reports from a conference that took place in Komotini, Greece,1-3 November. (456 words)

I spent last week in the small Greek city of Komotini which nestles in the foothills of the Rhodope Mountains near to the borders of Turkey and Bulgaria. It has a minority Muslim population, many of whom came from Turkey originally and formed a protected population under the Treaty of Lausanne. They have mostly chosen to stay in Greece through to recent times.

The Democritus University of Thrace was established in July 1973 and is based in Komotini, Greece, with other campuses in Xanthi, Alexandroupoli and Orestiada. The Social Work Department was established in the 1990s. I was invited to contribute to a conference on Social Austerity – Child Protection and Human Rights. Most of the contributions were in Greek with intermittent simultaneous translation. In addition to finding it difficult to concentrate on the translation when animated presenters were more of a draw, the fact that the written programme was all in Greek meant that the subject of each presentation was a surprise.

Many of the presentations reflected the very difficult times the Greek population has experienced in recent years and social workers’ contribution to helping people survive extreme austerity. They also highlighted the role they have played in supporting refugees who have landed in Greece seeking asylum and safety. Even over Summer the Turkish authorities have reported a seven-fold increase in the number of migrants making the crossing into Greece. It was impossible not to be filled with admiration for the work that is being done for those most in need by those working in services that survive on very little. I wondered how what I was going to say in my presentation entitled ‘Don’t tell me teachers are not social workers: schools’ response to safeguarding and protecting children’ would fit with this very national and global agenda. My presentation reflected on some of the emerging findings from our ESRC funded project on the role of schools in a multi-agency approach to child protection and safeguarding (Education and Protection study). But the response from the audience of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners dispelled any fears on my part. It confirmed the key role which teachers play in keeping children safe in many countries, which we shall comment on when presenting the findings of our study.

To hear more of the Education and Protection study please contact me to receive news of our presentations and publications.

Mary Baginsky is Senior Research Fellow at HSCWRU.

Baginsky, M., Driscoll, J. and Manthorpe, J. (2015) Thinking aloud: decentralisation and safeguarding in English schools. Journal of Integrated Care, 26, 6, 352-63.

Baginsky, M., Driscoll, J., Manthorpe, J. and Purcell, C. (2019) Perspectives on safeguarding and child protection in English schools: the new educational landscape explored. Educational Research, 61, 4, 469-481.