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Social work involves working with some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in society. It is working with individuals, groups and communities, putting into practice Social Work Values that aid people to overcome possible oppression they face. The actions of Social Workers are to promote social change, help solve problems and empower and liberate people to help enhance their well being. (British Association of Social Workers, 2002) It needs to be understood that Social Workers must be vigilant against the possibility of exploitation or oppression of Service users through ‘unethical Practices.’ (Thompson, 2005: Pg 108)
All Professional occupations are guided by ethical codes and underpinned by Values (Bishman, 2004) and from the very beginning of Social Work, the profession has been seen as firmly rooted in values (Reamer, 2001) (Cited by Bishman, 2004) ‘Every person has a set of beliefs which influence actions, values relate to what we think others should do and what we ought to do, they are personal to us.’ (Parrot, 2010:13) Although society may been seen as having shared values we are all brought up with different personal values bases, this is an important point to consider when working with others, because our values can influence the way we behave. It would therefore be seen as foolish to underestimate the significance of values within the Social Work Profession. (Thompson, 2005: 109)
Our Personal Values can change over time, and our behaviour can alter as a result of the situation we are in. From a young age one of the most important values instilled in me by my parents was to have respect for others, this should be carried throughout life as we should treat others the way in which we would expect to be treated.
‘The importance of having a value base for Social Work is to guide Social Workers and protect the interest of Services Users.’ (Parrot, 2010:17) As a practising Social Worker it is important to recognise personal values and to be able to understand, situations will present themselves were personal and professional values can conflict. It was only when we had the speakers in that I began to question my own values.
NISCC outlines a code of Practice for Social Workers to adhere to, from listening to the speakers in class one issue that was highlighted was that of partnership. Partnership is now a very evident part of everyday language of people involved in the process of providing care. (Tait and Genders 2002) However it is not always put into practice. Mr Y referred to being ‘kept in the dark’ about his illness, he was eventually given a diagnosis, but it was never explained to him what the meaning of this diagnosis was or how it would affect his life. Social Workers have to exercise professional discretion, due to the nature of their work; judgements have to be made which involve values and consequences that make the worker accountable for their actions. (Thompson 2009)
Partnership working is very important for people with a disability, I was able to recognise a conflict with my personal values when one of the Mr X spoke about a visit to the GP, where the GP was asking the carer how the Service User was feeling rather that asking them, from listening to this I was able to recognise that this is something that I have done in the past and possible infantilises the individual with comments such as referring to them as ‘we dote’ or ‘wee pet’ and I never thought that there was anything wrong with using these statements, however from the experience gained I can recognise that my personal values and the professional values are in conflict at this point. It is a way of oppressing this individual, and failure to promote their rights as an person.
When viewing this in conjunction with the NISCC Code Of Practice, it was clear that there was a conflicting of values. NISCC states that as a Social Care worker we must protect the rights and promote the interests of service users and carers as the Disabled Movement states ‘Nothing about us, without us.’ We need to consider the Service User perspective, one of the speakers stated ‘effective partnership working should include the professionals and the Service user.
‘Partnership is a key value in the professional value base underpinning Community Care.’ Braye and Preston-Shoot 2003’43) Partnership should be promoted in several ways such as keeping an open dialogue between professionals and Service Users, setting aims, being honest about the differences of opinion and how the power differences can affect them and providing the Service User with information that helps to promote their understanding. (Braye and Preston-Shoot 2003) In the case if the speaker who was not given a diagnosis for a long time and was just put out of the consultant’s office this key areas did not apply.
Another issue that was striking was that of independence, initially my personal view was not of someone with a disability being independent, my personal experience in the past had led me to believe that people with a disability required a lot of help and were dependant on a carer to provide that help, I didn’t view them as being in employment. Some of these values were quite dormant until I began working in the Social Care Field. The Speakers that we had in from Willow bank explained that they all have jobs and aim to be as independent as possible. This highlighted the conflict between my personal and professional values which I need to be aware of. The NISCC code of practice states a Social Worker should promote the independence of Service Users, this is one conflict that I can acknowledge with my personal values, I need to look at the bigger picture an view the service users as individual people with unique traits and interests it is important that they are not labelled due to their disability, It is viewed that it is society which disables physically impaired people, disability is something imposed on top of impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society. (Oliver 1996) My Personal view was that I believe that we should aim to do things for people with disabilities, I have often found myself carrying out tasks for them that I know they are able to perform themselves, when the speaker from sixth sense spoke about how she had been spoon fed and pushed around the playground as a child had gave her a sense of learned helplessness, it made me acknowledge my own actions. Again this is another area where my personal values conflict with the professional values. Respect for persons in an extremely important values, although I believe I was brought up to show respect for others by creating dependency in a way is disrespectful to the individual.
The promotion of independence is important, it is crucial to see those with a disability as individual people. The NISCC code of practice highlights As a social care worker, you must respect the rights of service users while seeking to ensure that their behaviour does not harm themselves or other people. Keeping in line with the NISCC Code of Practice I need to actively challenge my own prejudices in order to ensure that I am promoting anti-oppressive practice.
Being able to understand the value conflicts in practice can prove to be very beneficial. It can help us acknowledge the differences in the power structure, which can oppress the service user. Social Workers aim to empower the Service User, to help them help themselves. It is important that Professional values are always at the forefront to promote anti-oppressive practice. Social Work Practice is underpinned by laws, policies and procedures.
It is important to always be aware of the Service Users perspectives, this will help ensure more effective and efficient practice.
Both our personal and professional values need to be acknowledged for effective and efficient practice. It is of little use if Social Workers have a professional value base which doesn’t inform or influence their practice, Social Work ethics can be understood as Values put into actions. (Banks, 2006)
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