With reference to a social welfare setting of your choice evaluate the importance of the values and ethics, which support social work practice.
This essay will look at the ethics and values that are appropriate to the welfare setting that I work in. The ethics and values that are widely used in my work setting are confidentiality, non-judgementalism the children act, autonomy and anti discrimination. These are all vital as the welfare setting that I work in is a residential children’s home, there is a varied client group all are aged between 14years and 16 years. Each one of the young people who are living in the home are there for a number of different reasons making it vital that adapting the above mentioned ethics and values to meet each individuals needs is done in an appropriate manner for that individual.
Although the words values and ethics are used to widely by people on a daily basis the meaning behind them are rarely talked about or explored. Within the welfare setting they are more generally described as principles for practice. Therefore the definition for them would be that they are guidelines that are in place that we as care workers have to follow in order to ensure that at all times our clients need and right are met.
The use of the children act19891 is paramount within the residential setting for children, as a number of points within the act will have already been implemented before a child actually comes into care. The knowledge gained by the rsw’s from the children act will underpin the other principles that will be looked at in order for a young persons needs, and rights to be met as defined within the act, as well as maintaining their individuality as a person.
In order for the young persons needs in respect of education, welfare and safety to be met they have the right to access resources that will enable them to achieve both academically and on a social basis to the best of their abilities, such resources would be access to support groups, education equipment, i.e. computers, the ability to continue practicing in and following of their religious belief, continued and most importantly contact with family members where possible.
The children act1989 will be the principle ethic worked by after being put in place following a number of incidents involving children in the early eighties which resulted in a major overhaul of the system concerned with children their rights and welfare. Before the act came into being the parent’s rights where first and foremost, this changed with the advent of the children act. Under the new legislation the children’s needs becoming paramount this is implemented in a number of ways within the care system in order to ensure that the child and their needs are put first before what is best for others.
An example of this is Claire* has had to come into care as there has been evidence of neglect as mum who is dependent on alcohol has been unable to look after her in a manner that ensures that she receives adequate education and also adequate care at home in respect of love, attention, food and clothing. When she first arrives as an emergency placement a planning meeting is held in order to asses what Claire’s needs are and how they can be met by the residential staff, social workers family members and other support staff .Her education and personal needs will be looked at and a decision will be made on who is best placed to ensure that the decisions made are carried through.
It will be the duty of the rsw’s to ensure on a daily basis that Claire retains her identity and individuality by implementing the decisions made. A lot of the ways involved in this will cross over. Any young person coming into care has to build a relationship with their carer this can be difficult as having been removed from the care of her parent Claire could be resentful and blame staff for her being in care. Throughout the consultation time Claire will be involved and her views and wants will be considered.
This is where Autonomy will come into play, as it is important that her views are listened too and where possible taken into account it is vital if possible to involve the young person at all stages, as if they are not allowed to have some part in making decisions regarding their well being then they can become reliant on others and will find it difficult to make decisions about choices that they will be faced with at different points of their lives. It can also result in them not developing a sense of initiative and confidence as an individual. And also becoming resentful that other people are controlling their lives rather than caring for them.
It is not always possible to allow a young person to make decisions as to what is best for them as we as care workers have to abide by the law as set out in the children act in order to protect that young person And a decision that the yp might make in regards an event or situation may place them at risk. An example of this when a young person may want to attend a house party, they as a teenager will be swayed by peer pressure and not be able to see possible consequences of them attending, i.e. drunkenness, becoming involved with inappropriate other young people and also possibly drugs. Care workers will make a decision based on the facts before them and will generally decide that the young person will be at risk if they were to attend. This in itself can cause conflict with the young person, and still result in them attending against the wishes of the care workers. This would result in the young person being reported as missing and at risk .How much at risk would depend on the individual their age, learning capabilities and also their mental state.
Once the young person has been reported missing to the police, they attend and a missper form is filled in a decision has to be made by the rsw in respect of what the police need to be told as they could have to break confidentiality in respect of events in the young persons life in order to protect them. In the case of Sharon* a decision would be made that it was appropriate to inform the police that she has in the past made an allegation against another young person accusing them of a sexual assault on her. Although this was later disproved .
She has also been known to suffer with depression, which could be affected if she was to become involved in activities involving alcohol or drugs. The decision to break confidentiality in this case would be made in order to protect Sharon and other young people as her actions could be putting them at risk. The decision made would vary depending on the individual young person, as not all of them would be deemed at risk from attending a party. Each case would need to be looked at and all the possible risks assessed before making a decision in the first place not to allow them to attend and secondly what benefits there are by informing the police of issues of confidentiality.
Being non judgmental will also tie in with the above as although there has been allegations made by the youngster in respect of sexual assault you can not assume that she will do so again, as too do so would be judging her on past events which is something that as cares you cannot do even though as an individual you may disagree with the fact that false accusation had been made and that these had an effect on somebody else’s life and reputation.
When taking on the role of carer you have to put aside your own prejudices and belief on what is right and wrong to one side, and assess every situation that you come across without prejudice or you will not be able to do the job of protecting that young person adequately, as you will be allowing your own beliefs and values to cloud your judgement when making decisions regarding their welfare. Being non -judgemental will also tie in with anti discriminatory practice, as if you are judging them on matters of behaviour then you are discriminating against them for something that they did in the past. Which may have no bearing on the present situation.
Having an anti -discrimination policy is another vital part of the care system as youngsters will be within the system for a number of reasons such as, anti social behaviour, learning difficulties or social problems. In the case of simon* he is in care as his family find it hard to cope with him due to problems that have arisen due to his mild learning difficulties. Within the care home he displays behaviour that is not socially acceptable, for example eating his food in a manner that makes others uncomfortable eating with him he also finds it difficult to keep his room in a condition that is also acceptable to others.
To punish him for this would be discriminating against him due to the fact that due to his learning difficulties he is unable to comprehend what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. And also that in the past he had always been punished for his behaviour by negative reinforcement, such as taking away his meal or not allowing him to take part in an activity due to the state of his room. In this instance it would be the role of staff to show positive reinforcement when his behaviour is good rather than punishment for bad behaviour and manners. This is known as operant conditioning.2 Hopefully over time and if dealt with correctly the problems would decrease. Ultimately during this process though you have to remember that the young person is an individual and that they might chose not to change as they may be happy with the way their room is or the way that they eat .If this is the case then you cannot discriminate against them for taking that decision even though you disagree with it.
In conclusion it has to be said that although the welfare of the child is foremost, Decisions are always having to be made that can have a direct and indirect effect on the young person and that it will not always be possible to abide by the ethics talked about in this essay, reasons for this will be that in order to safe guard them you will some times need to break confidentiality or that you will have to take into account something that they have done in the past when making a decision on something that they wish do to ,therefore you will be judging them .There can also be staff restrains such as staffing levels being lower than they should which puts pressure on staff so they may not be able to spend the time needed with a young person in order for positive reinforcement to be effective.
It is the role of the care worker to do their utmost to ensure that all of the ethics talked about are met where possible, but to also remember that there will be instances where it will not be possible to do so and that on those occasions you look at possible conflicts and out comes from the decision made and whether it is better to break confidentiality and to judge someone, than to abide by the ethics resoundly and therefore allow the young person to become at risk. Therefore it has to be said that at times it will be permissible to break the ethics in order to protect the child as defined by the children act. In order to ensure that their daily, needs safety and education needs are met .As set out in their individual care plan.
*The names of the young people mentioned within this essay have been changed to protect their identity.
Author date title publisher
Hayes n, 1993 Psychology an introduction . Longman group UK
Hudson b, and McDonald g, 1986 behavioural social work. Blackwell Oxford
HMSO 1989 Children Act Legislation . Crown
Payne m, 1997 Modern social work theory. Mendham Suffolk
Sutton c. 1994 Social work, community and psychology. BPS books, Leicester
1 HMSO. ‘Children’s Act Legislation’. 1989
2 Hayes, N.’ Psychology: An Introduction’. 1993.