Social Work Ethics Essay

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Social Work Ethics

Ethics and Values in social work

There is a direct link between values and actions. When we perform an action we, and the act itself, may be judged according to the values expressed through that action (Shardlow 1989:p2)

This assignment will discuss this statement by outlining how professional interpretation emerges from the way dilemmas between different values are resolved. The assignment considers a number of social work values including ‘Respect to persons’ and ‘Self-Determinism’. Guidelines on ethical practice are included because their role in determining action based social work is significant. Throughout the assignment the relationship between ethical issues and value judgements will be examined in relation to scenario one. The assignment will show how awareness of personal values is the first process by which Anti-Discriminatory, Anti-Oppressive and Anti-Racist practices in social work are formed. To begin with, however, a general outline of ‘values’ is discussed. (Given the wide ranging nature of the question set I have decided to use italics when specific points are made in relation to the opening quote).

Values are difficult to define. Shardlow captures the range of ground covered by the term; “almost any kind of belief and obligation, anything preferred for any reason or for no apparent reason at all can be viewed as a value” (1989, p.4). An individual’s values are adopted cultural or societal values and are therefore socially acceptable (Banks, 1995). This idea of what people ‘should do’ relates to behaviour and social role. The Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW) expands on this “a value determines what a person thinks he ought!

to do, which may not be the same as what he wants to do, or what it is in his interest to do, or what in fact he actually does…” (CCETSW 1976 p14) Values are seen in actions, and CCETSW acknowledges that actions may not be congruent with the value held and, if values are described as a ‘what ought’, then this is based on personal or societal beliefs (Hugman & Smith 1995). This implies that unless an individual is aware of their own value base then they may be guided by prejudices which may cause them to act in oppressive or discriminatory ways (Thompson 1998).

One concept, that of PCS analysis, examines how personal values are gained through an interaction between an individual’s thoughts and actions, related to practice and prejudices (Thompson 1997). This personal (P) level interacts within a cultural (C) framework on the premise that these values are correct and are the ‘norm’ within the person’s culture. Therefore it can be viewed that cultural influences discrimination and can be used by racists to explain cultural superiority (Thompson 1998). There is a structural level (S) that encompasses both these spheres of influence and Thompson (1997) identifies that power held by, for example, government will uphold institutional oppression by maintaining social divisions. The relationships can be illustrated thus:

P= personal

C= Cultural

S= Structural

(Thompson 1997 p 21)

Personal values are therefore based on social standards of what is ‘good’ and ‘right’. The implications for this can be examined within the scenario. Robert Jones has learning disabilities and has a history of mental health problems. The biological disability may affect how Robert is perceived in society. Personal prejudices, cultural values and social forces can be seen to devalue and marginalise disabled people within society in a form of discrimination referred to as “disablism” (Thompson 1997 p. 107). This has the potential effect of altering the perception of Robert by the community in which he lives, as does the public perception of people who have committed sexual crimes. Added to this is the influence of society’s reaction to community care and mental illness, both of which have lead to a “growing fear of mental illness” (Jack 1998 p 8) in public perception influenced by media reporting of murders by people discharged by mental health teams into the community.All thes!

e points can be seen reflected in a micro sense within the values expressed by the day centre staff. This is mainly manifested in their attitude to Robert’s offence. Issues are based around their personal values and related to their perception of people who have committed sexual offences involving children. Despite Robert having received therapy whilst in secure accommodation, there is still concern regarding his personal responsibility and concerns are based around the presumption that Robert could abuse others and re-offend. It is important to establish whether a long term risk assessment been implemented to identify whether Robert is a risk. His attendance at the centre seems not to be the main concern, rather it is the proximity of the nursery which appears problematic for staff. In practice, if Robert were asked not to attend the centre, this could indicate discrimination by the centre staff, and yet he would still remain in the community. The staff seem to not have ackno!

wledged that Robert has the potential to change, as a result of the intensive therapy he received.The nature of the ethical dilemma can be expressed by exploring the guiding principles of ethical conduct in social work practice. Client-centred approaches view clients as individuals who are assisted by the social worker to explore those elements that have consequence to their own perception of the world (Davies 1997 citing Howe 1987). This carries with it one core principle of social work values: the respect for persons (Banks 1995).Respect for persons is one of the principles by which there is “recognition of the value and dignity of every human being..”(BASW 1975). Biestek (1961), whose ‘seven principles of case work’ influence the current values in BASW’s code of ethics (Hugman & Smith 1995), used terms of ‘individualisation’, ‘acceptance’ and ‘non-judgmental approaches’ to identify that not only does each individual hold unique qualities, but that a worker has to view the client in a positive manner and not judge the client by their actions (Banks 1995).

This basis for practice can also be seen in works by Rogers (1961), who used the term ‘unconditional positive regard’ to express a valuing of a client, no matter what actions or values they have expressed (Mearns and Thorne 1988). In respect to the scenario, it is apparent that workers at the unit have made judgements about Robert due to his offence, which highlights their own values. Self-determination or self-realisation can be seen as derived from ‘respect for persons’ (Ovretveit 1986). It can certainly be viewed as one of the dominant values in social work (Shardlow 1989, Jamal 1994, Horne 1987). If, however, a social worker is guided by the presumption that a client can be ‘improved’ by their input then they are not acknowledging that values are human inventions, and risk imposing their own values on a client (Horne 1987). It has been observed that self-determination remains problematic “ins!

ofar as its apparent stress on the right of the client to go his own, possibly wilful way, has seemed a thread to the fine balance which it is thought social work should maintain between permissiveness and control” (Jamal 1994 p 1) This value contains a duality in that the theory can be approached from two (conflicting) interpretations relating to ‘positive freedom’ and negative freedom’. Positive freedom is an expression of the view that a client has control over decisions that relate to their life (Ovretveit 1986) and this implies that the social work process is enabling client led awareness of where their actions are based, and their motivation for their actions. The social worker, therefore has a duty to create conditions that respect the clients ability to make choices and to act on the clients wishes without guiding them (Ovretveit 1986). Negative freedom can be expressed as the social worker’s duty to not interfere in the client’s choices and actions (Banks 1995) and in!essence the lack of coercion (Horne 1987 citing Wilkes 1981). For example, negative freedom would entail action on the behalf of the social worker only if there were the potential risk to others (Horne 1987).

Negative freedom draws heavily on Kantian principles that view individuals as able to make decisions and be responsible for the consequences of their actions. Both these approach to self-determinism “can mean all things to all people” (Banks 1995 p29) There are differing opinions relating to not only the nature of self-determinism, but to its relevance to social work practice. One suggested reason for this approach being less commonplace in practice is that social workers can be seen as agents of social control (Banks 1995), and considering that most social work is carried out under local authority control, the “non-directive” (Banks 1995 p.60) manner of such person-centred approaches redirects away from service provision within a legal framework and responsibility to lo!

cal authority employers to counselling based work. Whittington (1975) observes that institutional norms of the social worker’s agency may require the use of coercive practices that are not self-determining (Horne 1987 p 23). In defence of this one has to view a social worker’s responsibility to “promote the public good or the well-being of society in general” (Banks 1995 p31) which can limit the extent that a client, in terms of positive freedom, can act. These principles can be acted upon in a utalitarian response to the ethical dilemma. Responses to the situation may entail acting in a manner that are the least harmful and most beneficial to the most people (Banks 1995). If acting under this theory it must be established whose best interests are being served. One expression of this is that actions ought to be performed on the merit of their consequences (Horne 1987).One could therefore justify the staff’s views that they are acting in the best interest’s of society by expres!

sing their concern at Robert’s presence in their community. This identifies the core of the ethical dilemma as to whether the perceived risk to the community outweighs Robert’s rights as an individual who should be treated as a person who risks being oppressed by societal norms. The Kantian view that forms an intrinsic value of ‘respect for persons’ in social work practice seems to be opposed to the utilitarian view which conflicts with the worker’s duties to the individual by the nature of social control in a bureaucratic social work system (Banks 1995).

Conclusion

In this scenario there is a conflict in the staffing group over Robert’s right to receive services. The moral judgements inherent in the values and attitudes of some staff would guide them to remove Robert, and the perceived risk, from their environment and therefor eliminate their need to examine their own values. The pragmatists in the unit can be seen as valuing Robert as a person first. This acknowledges the nature of his offence without judging his actions by societal standards. How this situation is resolved is problematic: “Is this a question for an individual worker, the staff team, or a management committee?” (Shardlow 1989 p94). Whatever the outcome of this situation is, the validity of action taken by the staff can be guided by the value base of social work, from both professional, rather than form personal perspectives. The professional code of practice offers little guidance on how to resolve this dilemma, simply stating that obligations exist to all parties invol!

ved (Horne 1987). One problem is that social work is not “universalisable” (Banks 1995 p 10), each interaction that a social worker makes presents different problems (Shardlow 1989). It would be wrong to assume that any prescriptive list (Horne 1987) could specify exactly how a social worker was to act in a given situation, although Biesteck’s principles can be viewed as a portrayal of desired qualities (Banks 1995). The reality of practice is often much more complex, with more variables, possibilities and restrictions (Horne 1987) on actions, in that individuality forms dilemmas- each interaction will present differing value bases (Shardlow 1989). The very nature of an ethical dilemma is that a choice has to be made between two unwelcome outcomes and “having made the choice, the impact of the dilemma does not go away; for even the least unwelcome alternative is still unwelcome (Banks 1995 p 5). Ultimately a social worker has to be accountable and must be able to justify their!

action (Hugman 1995).

Bibliography

Banks. S, (1995): Ethics and Values in social work. Macmillan. Houndmills.

Bilton. T, (ed.) (2nd ed. 1987):Introductory Sociology. Macmillan. Houndmills.

British Association of Social Workers. (1986): A Code of Ethics for Social Work. BASW. Birmingham.

Central Council for Education and Training in Social work. (1976): Values in social work. CCETSW. London

Horne, M (1987): Values in social work. Wildwood House. Aldershot

Hugman. R, and Smith. D, (eds.) (1995):Ethical Issues in social work. Routledge.

London.

Jamal. B, (1994): self-determination and positive freedom in social work. University

of East Anglia. Norwich.

Mearns. D, and Thorne. B, (1988): Person centred counselling in action. Sage. London.

Ovretveit. J, (1986): Improving Social Work Records and Practice. BASW. Birmingham.

Shardlow, S. (Ed.) (1989): The Values of Change in Social Work. Tavistock/ Routledge. London

Shemmings. D, (1991): Client Access to Records: Participation in Social Work. Avebury. Aldershot.

Thompson. N, (1997 2nd ed.): Anti-Discriminatory Practice. Macmillan. Houndmills

Thompson. N, (1998):Promoting Equality. Routledge. London

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**Bibliography**

Bibliography

Banks. S, (1995): Ethics and Values in social work. Macmillan. Houndmills.

Bilton. T, (ed.) (2nd ed. 1987):Introductory Sociology. Macmillan. Houndmills.

British Association of Social Workers. (1986): A Code of Ethics for Social Work. BASW. Birmingham.

Central Council for Education and Training in Social work. (1976): Values in social work. CCETSW. London

Horne, M (1987): Values in social work. Wildwood House. Aldershot

Hugman. R, and Smith. D, (eds.) (1995):Ethical Issues in social work. Routledge.

London.

Jamal. B, (1994): self-determination and positive freedom in social work. University

of East Anglia. Norwich.

Mearns. D, and Thorne. B, (1988): Person centred counselling in action. Sage. London.

Ovretveit. J, (1986): Improving Social Work Records and Practice. BASW.
Birmingham.

Shardlow, S. (Ed.) (1989): The Values of Change in Social Work. Tavistock/ Routledge. London

Shemmings. D, (1991): Client Access to Records: Participation in Social Work. Avebury. Aldershot.

Thompson. N, (1997 2nd ed.): Anti-Discriminatory Practice. Macmillan. Houndmills

Thompson. N, (1998):Promoting Equality. Routledge. London

The alarming picture painted in the earlier sections of this paper, however, portrays growing communities with increasing levels of need and state provision in Australia. At best, it lacks the required level of commitment and, at worst, lacks any required sense of responsibility. The inevitable consequence, therefore, for older people is a life experience that reflects injustice instead of social justice, and abuse instead of care. For the organisations, incompetence rather than competence is prevalent in practice and service delivery. In those circumstances, it would appear that “the agent of change” is caught up in a web of confusion arising out of the conflicting priorities of the service user and the agency. The increasing level of need that accompanies advancement in age competes with the increasing demands of the limited agency resources.

The political, socio-economic, and ethical framework within which social work exists may, to some extent, explain the problems encountered when one attempts to address the issues raised earlier. The agent of change concept may have a greater emphasis on agent than on change. Many old people are informal providers of care for older and frailer people. Provision of care often occurs at a cost to the informal care provider whether young or old. Sometimes that pressure can account for the abuse. The level of need is becoming more complex in this group. There is acknowledgement of this phenomenon by politicians, managers of care, and professionals in the allied care professions. This, tragically, is not accompanied by the commitment of resources to provide a basic standard of care for those who need it. There are, therefore, unintended consequences of codes of ethics as there is ample evidence of “unmet need” and indeed abuse experienced by this vulnerable group of people:

…the place of aged care in social work has long been ambiguous. Social work (as do other comparable professions), often displays a reluctance to place practice in this field within the core of the profession that embodies aspects of ageism in contemporary society. Working with older people is frequently characterised as “mundane,” “routine,” and not real social work. He concludes that unless social work affirms practice with older people and their families, we will fail to be congruent with our own values. (Hugman, 2000, p. 3) Alongside this, professional practice is becoming more critical in its analysis of social problems and more sophisticated in its intellectualisation of improving professional practice. In my view, the principles outlined by the IFSW mirror many policy documents of good intent issued by the Inspectorate and various governing bodies overseeing/monitoring the quality of care for older people internationally. Hugman (2000) suggests that this is equally true of Australia. Practitioners and academics have been slow to conceptualise and implement practice that fits social work objectives. Hugman (2000, p. 5) suggests three major roles in aged care social work: • The management of access to supportive services, • Coordination and development of services, and

• Provision of supportive care to informal carers. Hence, there is, however, a gap between the intention to provide and the actual financing and support of the service.

5. Conclusion
The social work profession has been in existence for more than a century and has shaped and reshaped itself to address the post modern era. In addition to the agency codes of practice, Australia has an affiliation to the IFSW and has adapted its “Ethics and Values” principles to encompass those of the IFSW. There is also a great deal of evidence to suggest that older people are faced with a poor quality of life, lacking not only the resources, but courtesy and care in their dealings with health and welfare organisations.

It is evident that Australia has an increasing ageing population. There is a clear recognition of the health and welfare needs that manifest themselves in later life. There are well developed social policies that, potentially, have scope for a high standard of care for all. However, the monetary commitment by the state is questionable. In addition to this, the ageist practice ingrained in our institutions has to be eradicated. The question that arises, therefore, is: how do we bridge the gap between professional codes of practice in the interest of older Australians?

Home SUMMER 2009, VOL. 6, #2 Intl & Natl Professional Social Work Codes of Practice: Australia & Policy & Practice w/Older People Intl & Natl Professional Social Work Codes of Practice: Australia & Policy & Practice w/Older People This paper explores the relationship between the IFSW code of ethics and the Australian Association of Social Workers code of ethics. It begins by conceptualising the notion of “ethics” before interrogating the respective standpoints, differences, and commonalities of IFSW and AASW. The paper not only highlights the problems of social work ethics in national and international contexts, but also raises serious questions relating to the impact on service users. In particular, there are implications for the quality of social care for older people despite the rigidity of codes of ethics. The paper ends by examining the important differences between international and national social work codes of ethics and implications for older people as service users. International and National Professional Social Work Codes of Practice: Australia and Policy and Practice with Older People Moira Rangel, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

The Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, Volume 6, Number 2 (2009)
Copyright © 2009, White Hat Communications

11Please refer to either previous practice experience and/or service-user, carer and survivor inputs from this module and make links with the 6 Social Work Key Roles and at least one model of reflective practice. Word Count – 3,000 words +/- 10%

Critically evaluate possible tensions, conflicts and collusions within and between your personal value system and your professional value system as related to social work practice.

Differences and similarities  my values professional value system

Which key roles/practice foci are relevant to:
values
self awareness
reflection
1.Prepare
Tuning in requires self awareness and reflection
2.Plan, Carry out, review and evaluate
3.Support
4.Manage risk
5.Accountability
6.Demonstrate and take responsibility for competence

7. Concrete Experience—actually doing the activity
8.Reflective Observation—reflecting on performance in the activity, considering successes and failures 9.Abstract Conceptualization—apply theory to the experience of doing the activity 10.Planning Active Experimentation—consider theory and reflection to guide planning for subsequent experiences

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