Modern social care presents the contemporary social care worker with a number of social and personal challenges.
In order to address this issue I will take an autobiographical approach based on my own personal life experiences in a social care context and blend it with my learning during the college process. Firstly I would like to state that the views and experiences expressed in this essay are not general statements directed at the travelling community as a whole but just my own personal experiences with individuals, this also holds true for members of the settled community that I will discuss.In the essay I will give a brief outline of my history to date both as a social care worker and as a self-employed business person at the time. The topic of the essay will be my personal and honest account of my experiences with some members of the travelling community and what I have learned about myself as a social care worker in the process.This essay will outline some of the negative stereotypes and negative real life experiences that are associated with members of the travelling community and how we as social care workers should always be standing guard in order to tackle all potential prejudice and stereotyping that may try and thwart us in our duty as care workers. Having been self employed as a publican for two years the issue of discrimination against the travelling community very quickly came to my doorstep.
I had no experience in the publican business and customers, staff and anybody who I asked expressed that all travellers must be banned from the bar without any exceptions. I totally disagreed with this advice and operated a system where all patrons were afforded the hospitality of the Bar as long as all the house rules were adhered too. The unfortunate reality of my own particular experience in the Bar was that each member of the travelling community that frequented my premises eventually broke the rules and left me in a position where I had no other option but to expel them from the premises.Often these rule breaches manifested themselves into acts of violence directed towards myself or other members of the travelling community. My first hand negative experience in these situations was very real but it also led me to educate myself on traveller culture and their history. I also got to observe the interactions and attitudes of the settled community and their actions towards travellers.
When members of the travelling community were in the Bar people would ask me why I served them and that they were a threat to everybody, these same people were teachers and bankers, mechanics etc and would all have varied interactions with various travellers, would I ask a teacher why do they let travellers into their class? , does the bank manager refuse to let them open an account? This showed me the deep rooted prejudice that existed within our society and that also how travellers could only exist in certain social spaces that were predetermined by the settled community.It reminded me of Apartheid in South Africa and here it was alive and well in Castlebar. It also showed the deep rooted discrimination that members of the travelling community were forced to endure in our society. If discriminatory remarks were made to any other ethnic or racial group then people maybe challenged and labelled the comment as racist or being uneducated etc, however the traveller seems to be exempt from some such societal defence. It is fully endorsed to make discriminatory and racist comments and actions as long as they are directed at travellers.
This attitude is seeping right through settled society and goes to enforcing traveller stereotypes and attitudes towards them as the settled community take this stance as the norm, thus potentially propagating the Apartheid attitude toward travellers for generations to come. After my time spent in self employment I then started to work as a family support worker in Galway city. As part of my role I was involved in delivering intensive family support to a young person and their family for a period of six months .The programme offered up to fifteen contact hours per week usually taking place in and around the family home.
One of the cases that I was offered to work with was a traveller family in the city. Having had negative experiences in the Bar business when dealing with those particular members of the travelling community and the general environment in which settled people were openly and repeatedly discriminatory in their opinions relating to travellers , I had to be aware that this environment could have had an impact on how I would interact with this family .I explained to my line manager that while I had no issue in working with the family, however I only had negative historical experiences with members of the travelling community. The personal challenge that I faced in this situation was that I had to open myself up to my line manager and myself and make her aware that I maybe even subconsciously be carrying negative feelings into this case that would lead to this family not getting the best care and even cause further harm to an already very vulnerable family group.The importance of awareness of the self is so crucial when we truly consider how important our role can be to others and the impact both positive and negative that we can make.
I felt it was important to make my line manager aware of any potential prejudice that I may carry into a family’s home. The experience that I had with the traveller family in question was one of the most rewarding and informative. The time spent with this family over a six month period in their home and lives was an honour and a privilege that I shared in.So here I was, the person who had listened to society tell me how deplorable that travellers were and also from my own actual real negative experiences having the most welcoming and warm relationship. The conclusion to this is that while there is a minority within the minority of travellers that do commit crime and violence etc. , these actions do not define them either.
It is easy for the majority population to see the actions of a minority and use them to reinforce stereotypes and prejudice on the traveller community as a whole.And while some travellers do engage in anti-social behaviour, this behaviour should not be seen as their only behaviours. If the majority population only see the negative anti-social behaviours it is very easy to label the whole traveller community in this way, especially as it has been rampant throughout Irish society and hardly needs much encouraging. I was in the unique situation where I was in a traveller’s home and shared their lives for a brief period, this gave me the opportunity to see behind the stereotypes and meet the real live person.
One cannot expect that the majority of the population will have such intensive access as I did though my work in order to dissolve their prejudices but surely we can support the notion that the settled community can strive to include their traveller neighbours, school colleagues, fellow patrons, in simple communication and inclusion in order for us to heal as a true united society. The majority and minority populations have already isolated each other from each other and only true equality will come when both groups put the stereotypes aside and engage with one another as human beings.