The terms “Social Care” and “Child and Youth Care” in an Irish context
It was pointed out to me that I interchangeably use "child and youth care" and "social care" in many of my papers and frequently on the CYC-Net and, specifically, that I omit ‘disability’ and ‘intellectual impairment’ from my discourse when discussing various issues in Ireland. I would point to several possible explanations for this:
One tends to write from one’s experience. My own area of expertise (assuming I have one) is that of children and youth at risk. That is to say, I have been writing programmes, supervising students on practica in this area, assessing agencies, supervising front line practitioners in my private practice and researching risk for the past ten years. I have little experience of disability and intellectual impairment and have always relied on my colleagues on academic course boards who have articulated an interest in these areas to explore and develop them. To each his own, I say.
Furthermore, few of the third-level Institutes of Technology who train social care practitioners have very significant periods of study over the duration of their programmes focussing specifically on disability or intellectual impairment (mental handicap). Educators, I believe, do cover these areas at differing levels and to differing extents but we are attempting to produce a generic social care practitioner who can work across a number of disciplines. One can, as a student, elect to undertake practica with preferred populations and research at dissertation level so significant experience of disability and intellectual impairment can be gained along one’s training route.
The third-level awards within the Irish Association of Social Care Educators network are in the areas of "Applied Social Studies in Social Care", but some colleges within our network subtitle these – as is the case with the Dublin Institute of Technology and The Open Training College. Indeed, the latter is the only college that provides a dedicated Diploma in disability studies.
It was only with the formation of the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) in 2001 that all of the actors agreed the common definition of social care quoted below (see also my November 2001 column in CYC-ONLINE). The disability sector was represented at this forum and have agreed the working definition now in use within the colleges.
So, I admit that when I write of social care in Ireland, I generally mean child and youth care services and, often, residential child and youth care services. I certainly do not mean to leave out other areas of applied social studies out of disinterest. There are others far more qualified than I to carry this torch and politicise their area. So, John this recognition of my limitations is for you….