A survival guide to living ethically in a time of austerity: Keep calm and stay radical…

Last week I came across a piece on The Social Work Blog on the Community Care website written by Andy McNicoll and entitled A survival guide to practising ethical social work in a time of austerity’. The piece in question is based on a presentation that Colin Turbett, a social worker and activist, gave at a meeting of Unison Scotland members to discuss ethical social work practice.

Jason Tester -Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures

Colin Turbett claims that ‘Social workers  must seek out and exploit opportunities for radical, ethical social work in a climate of austerity’. ‘Radical social work’, continues Turbett, ‘challenges the narrow prescribed forms of practice driven by managerialism and its attempts to enforce neoliberal ideas and acceptance of austerity as if it was a natural event’.

In his Social Work Blog, Andy McNicoll, drawing on Turbett, goes on to formulate a survival guide that shows how radical, ethical social work might be practiced.

It seems to me that Andy McNicoll’s survival guide to practising ethical social work in a time of austerity is very relevant to living ethically in general in such a time.  Most of- if not all – the survival strategies in McNicoll’s  guide that apply to ethical social work in austerity times arguably are likely to apply to ethical living as a whole in such times. 


Let’s take a look at some survival strategies for ethical living in a time of austerity. The survival strategies that follow draw creatively on Andy McNicoll’s survival guide:

1. Be caring, helpful and supportive to your fellow human beings

2. Bring humour into your life, your friendships and your workplace

3. Seek out work settings that offer support and opportunity

4. Use opportunities to live and work creatively 

5. Take time to find out who might be your allies and who will put obstacles in your way

6. Avoid martyrdom and senseless confrontation in your life and work

7. Help create a positive and anti-oppressive culture in your workplace and in society as a whole by challenging and resisting oppression and discrimination in all its forms

8. Join a trade union that genuinely advocates and acts for social justice

9. Use and support professional associations, campaigning groups  and forums of collective action (for example the Asylum magazine for democratic psychiatry) to share critical and radical ideas




Jason Tester –Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures