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“Nobody wants to work as an informant”: social workers condemn mandatory reporting

Social workers in Sweden take a stand against government proposals to make it mandatory for social workers to report people living in the country without a licence to the Migration Agency or the police.

12/06/23

“Nobody wants to work as an informant”: social workers condemn mandatory reporting

A Swedish social work trade union has criticised government plans that would require social care and health professionals to report any persons living in Sweden without a permit.

The trade union, Akademikerförbundet SSR, said the proposals would create a lack of trust that would spread and affect the conditions for doing the job. They say the lack of trust would make the outreach and prevention activities that social services carry out harder and in some cases near impossible, and also potentially lead to serious healthcare injuries and increased spread of infection.

“Public trust is an absolute necessity for our members to do their jobs. The lack of trust leads to the fact that the person who needs welfare the most will avoid contact,” Heike Erkers, President of the trade union, said. “Social workers are not supposed to do police work it would undermine the public trust from societies most vulnerable.”

The International Federation of Social Workers expressed solidarity with the Swedish social workers taking a stand, saying that a reporting system would cause human tragedies because people would not dare to seek help or get the help they need. Potential issues could include children who have the right to education stopping attending school if the parents knew teachers where obliged to report their students, pregnant women not contacting maternity care, and people in need of health care not daring to turn to hospitals or primary care. It said that people who are victims of crime or people in a dependent position could be dissuaded from asking for help.

“The concerns raised by social workers are genuine and reflect the potential negative consequences of reporting requirements for individuals living in Sweden without a permit,” Ana Radulescu, IFSW European Regional President, said.

“Imposing a mandate to report can have severe consequences, compromising public health and increasing vulnerability among marginalized populations. By advocating for inclusive and equitable access to social and health services, social workers play a crucial role in promoting social justice and ensuring that individuals receive the necessary support they need.”

IFSW Secretary-General, Rory Truell, commended the trade union for taking a stand.

“They are enacting an important role of independent social work representative organizations by challenging their government’s intended policy that will result in significant harm to migrant communities and the wider social landscape of Sweden.

Truell added that the action was a warning for the many professionals internationally who may face similar challenges from their governments.

“This situation is unfortunately not just limited to Sweden as other governments around the world also seek to expel and discriminated against undocumented residents rather than working with them in recognizing and realizing their contributions to society.

“The campaign of the Swedish social work organizations models the essential role of social work to every society in correcting political policy mistakes. We wish them every success.”

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