Voices from the Front Line: Social Work with Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Australia and the UK
Front line social work in non-government organisations (NGOs) providing services for refugees and asylum seekers is demanding and challenging. Increasing numbers of social workers work with newly arrived communities; however, there are few studies that examine the demands and issues they face. Asylum seekers and refugees face restricted access and limited entitlement to health and social care. This article draws on evidence from a qualitative study conducted in 2006–11 that analysed the narratives of thirty front line workers to identify the challenges faced in delivering effective services and support. It was found that immigration policy in Australia and the UK placed pressure on social workers working with those who are subject to tight state controls and who experience poverty and destitution. In most NGOs in the UK, there is no supervision or structural support for front line social workers, whereas Australian NGOs are informed by a culture of supervision. This article highlights the demands social workers face in their work and recommends improved conditions in NGOs, and targeted social work education, training and research.