The aim of this essay is to explore and outline the role of the social worker. As Mark Dole highlighted, the role of a social worker is a complex and misunderstood role within a contemporary society. The role of the social worker ranges from being a wise eyed idealist to a realist. Social work is misunderstood by the public and media. Mark Dole in his book on skills required for social worker (2011) quotes Margaret Thatcher who famously said: ‘anyone could be a social worker: all that was needed was time on their hands some life experience’.
This essay is aimed at outlining and explaining how complex this role is, and challenging it is to define social work. Bradley’s (2008) along with BASW (2008) core values are essential to social work practice. These are human dignity and worth, social justice, service to humanity, integrity and competence. With these five fundamental elements, will enable you to provide a proficient service, promote social change and empower people to enhance their lives. It is important that these core values are imbedded in social work practice to ensure you provide a fair and competent service.
The social work profession believes every human being has a right to well-being and the freedom to take control and enhance their own lives. By promoting human dignity and worth the profession aims to help service users build on self-respect, self-fulfilment and self-importance, so they’re able to reach their full potential. Social workers believe everyone is worth something, and should be treated with respect and dignity and without prejudice, in regards of ones culture, religion, class, sexually preference or belief.
Social workers commit to supporting people who are vulnerable, and seek to help re-build their confidence and self-worth. Their dignity and self-esteem may have suffered due to unfortunate circumstances such as domestic violence, homelessness or a serious accident that has left them to cope with a disability. Social workers aim to alleviate and find way to over come structural disadvantage and bring fourth equal opportunities for all. Social justice is about equality; equal opportunities for all.
The profession works to ensure everyone is treated fairly and have the same social rights and opportunities as others. A service user may have immigrated or been withdrawn from society, as a result of this they may not be completely aware of their rights and entitlement, for example making a complaint, legal aid, benefits or to seek asylum. Social justice is done to provide a fair harmonious society and by bringing awareness to such entitlement can help provide that. Service to humanity is one of the bases of social work.
Service users are the profession’s primary concern and works to put them first and meet their personal and social needs. Therefore social workers provide practical and accurate information, and encourage participation with realistic choices in regards to their lives. They’re required to show empathy and treat service users with the same respect that they would like. E. g. Peoples views, opinions, beliefs, may not be the same as yours and may differ at times, you must still accept and respect this; along with their culture and ways of doing things.
Integrity consists of honesty, impartiality, sincerity, reliability, moral and ethnic principles. These qualities are what the profession strives to promote on a professional and personal level. Social work practices not to exploit or take advantage of anyone. E. g. by not manipulating a person (in any way) because they’re more vulnerable. Competency is the foundation of social work practice. You have to show you have the skills and knowledge to deliver a proficient service, as highlighted in Bradley 2008. In relation to the baby P case s/w were heavily criticised for there incompetency to protect baby P.
Mail online quoted “Social workers, doctors and police, committed a catalogue of errors which led to the toddler’s death at the hands of his mother and her sadistic boyfriend. ” Linked very closely to core values are core values are core skills also outline by Bradley 2008. These can be dived into two main sections: interpersonal and administrative skills. According to Bradley (2008:16), ch. 1; communication includes written skills, negotiation, decision making and assessments, also demanding the ability to organise, systematise, rationalise and develop reflective listening and hearing skills.
Communication skills, is a vital skill to have on a whole. We live in a multi cultural society, and as a social worker you will be engaging with a diverse mix of people on a daily basis. Social workers’ must collect their own factual information and relay this clear and accurately, wither verbal or written: this could be of great significance to a case. In the Lamming report 2008, he reported it was due to the systematic failure to communicate, from social workers, contributed to the death of Victoria Climbe. Negotiation and decision making is imperative in s/w profession.
When required you may have to negotiate with service users to help them change their current circumstances, setting them practical goals or negotiating with external agencies on their behalf. Social workers are expected to intervene and protect someone from harm to themselves and others. By weighing up your information, facts and evidence can guild you in decision making. For example, placing vulnerable adults in care homes or removing children who are at risk from their home. Organisation skills are required, this will help find information quickly, and keep on top of case loads.
Colleagues’ along with other agencies may require access too: finding them promptly will be beneficial to them and the service user. Having a systemised way of doing things can be helpful, prioritising work loads where there is high priority cases, this can save lives. Rationalise covers too areas: making excuses: social workers may be accused of this at times, that’s why it is vital to record facts; you may have to justify your actions or the service users, again facts and evidence is important. Rationalise you thoughts and what you are going to say by reflective listening.
Listening and hearing skills is an essential tool as recorded in Bradley 2008. You must listen to your client until they finish what they’re saying: listen to them so that you can identify any other problems that may lay beneath the service. Remember social work is also about using instincts, initiative, discretion and intelligence; they’re required to use their psychology skills to act quickly to ensure service users are protected. The social work profession aims to empower people and meet their needs, if you don’t have a clear understanding about what this is, then how can a s/w help?
Social workers may be required to follow the instructions of the service user, managers or outside agencies, they must be able to show competency as people relay on s/w! As stated by BSAW (2008) social workers must continue to develop their skills, on going training will help achieve this, keeping up to date with changes and legislations. The profession aims to be recognised for their outstanding competent service; rather than the Rochdale report (2012) which clearly stated SW did not communicate effectively with each other and other agencies, their admin was poor not systematic and disorganised.
It is important to reflect and be critical on one’s own prejudices; this is an important quality in being a SW as equality and social justice is imperative in the profession. Prejudice, is having a preconceived opinion about someone. Defined by Allport (1954), thinking ill of others without warrant: for example, if you’re told something negative about a person; from this you start to behave hostile towards them. Stereotyping is when you make generalizations about a group or individual; defining them to a set of characteristics.
This type of judgement can be negative or positive, such as various nationalities are stereotyped as friendly or unfriendly, the same as gangs who are prejudge to be criminals or violent thugs; this easily leads to discrimination as you start to treat a person differently or unfairly. Most stereotypical judgements of group characteristics are in fact moral evaluations (Howitt, et al. , 1989). Prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination; fall under the same category, and is something were all guilty of.
We tend to commit such acts subconsciously as making a judgement about someone is the norm to many of us, and is apart of everyday life e. g. within politics; we are put into ranks such as class and distributed an allowance that the government inserts for people to live on: or as simply as going for a job interview; the way you dress, sit, act, speak, disability and race; can determined wither you get the job. When a research was done, it showed “White job applicants in Washington and Chicago received three times as many job offers as equivalently qualified Black applicants” (Brown 1995, p. ). The cognitive approach to stereotyping is that we all stereotype, at varying levels – because of the essential cognitive process of categorisation (Brown, 1995). Many people may be unaware that they’re committing such an act, as they may consider prejudice to only be related to the attributes that can easily be recognised, such as race, culture/religion or women. Having a sense of fear is the basis of prejudice. Stephan and Stephan, (p. 38) stated people have “a fear of the unknown, a fear of the unfamiliar. If fear is the father of prejudice, ignorance is its grandfather”.
This is because we react ignorantly, when we are faced with someone /thing that is different. Prejudice is not just an internal thinking: as it can determine our behaviour towards others; as a result we start to discriminate. Social work profession works to combat discrimination, as prejudicial thinking can be changed. We can start by not deferring, and validate ourselves. E. g. learn what prejudice habits you may have, such as making a prejudgement when meeting someone: usually this is a first instinct; based on ones’ appearance people tend to decide wither they like them, or what their mannerism is going to be like.
As social workers, it is your duty to overlook all negative judgements and imbed Bradley (2008) core values. This enables social workers to empower people; and provide an anti-discriminatory practice. Social workers deal with a diverse society on a daily basis and they assess people’s needs; it is imperative to do this fairly, putting the needs of the service user before own personal opinions’ and beliefs. The profession strives to bring recognition that discriminatory treatment towards offers, can impact on a person’s health and well-being.
To help eradicate discrimination and oppression, legislations have been put in place; 1976 equal opportunities act was passed and in 1995 the law addresses discrimination act against race, sex, disability and age (Thompson 2006). These laws set to help change peoples negative, judgemental attitudes, but it can be argued that inserting a penalty, in order to force people to act in accordance; rather then changing a person’s perception could lead to them resenting the persons. Devine, plant, and Buswell (2000) suggest two strategies in order to prevent this possibility. Developing empathy for the target group, and prompting people to confront the discrepancies between their general beliefs” e. g. political values such as egalitarianism, religious beliefs and their attitudes to certain people. These suggestions will be especially useful to a social worker supported by Thompson (1993) who defines anti-discriminatory practice as: An approach to social work practice which seeks to reduce, undermine or eliminate discrimination and oppression, specifically in terms of challenging sexism, racism, ageism and diabolism… nd other forms of discrimination encountered in social work. Social workers must comply with these implications as there may be situations where you encounter with someone from your past who you fee/felt bias towards: as an s/w you’re expected to put all prejudices aside to deliver a fair service while remaining objective. The needs of a service user are highly important; every service users needs are going to be different. Establishing a persons needs can be difficult; to help s/w distinguish ‘wants’ to a more realistic and practical achievement e. g. mansion or immediate shelter due to homelessness: there are two main approaches to help with assessment. The four main concepts of need identified by Bradshaw (1972) are: normative needs which are associated with the basic standard needs in life. For example, clothing, shelter, food or money such as benefits. Comparative need concerns the comparison of social problems, such as determining which areas are most deprived. Felt need is the need of feeling, e. g. need from the perspective of the people who have it. Expressed need is the need people say they have.
People can feel need which they do not express and they can express need which they do not feel. Similar to Bradshaw is Maslow’s definition which can be divided into basic (or deficiency) needs (e. g. physiological, safety, love, and esteem) and growth needs (cognitive, aesthetics and self-actualization). However even with these guidelines assessing evaluating people’s needs may still prove to be difficult as defining how one person’s needs are greater than another can be hard along with limited resources and lengthy procedures. Needs, can change along with people and what the law inserts e. g. enefits, class categorizing and how healthcare is distributed. There is no consensus on what is fair; the decision is a moral rather than an objective one. Because there is no agreed definition of poverty there can be no agreed measure. The s/w profession weighs up information all the time in order to decide on the best and most effective outcome for a service user: evaluation is the weighing up of evidence, to minimize risk. There are many approaches to minimizing risk; the principles of assessment defined by Milner O’Byrne (2009) are: Preparation of data, reports and information aim of assessment.
What are the intended outcomes, service user involvement/families partnership working with other agencies, non judgemental, not bias and not being prejudice. Therefore working with the service user is vital; these bureaucracies of principle assessments has been prescribed to help s/w minimise risk, and prevent s/w from negative media attention such a the baby p case, Rochdale report and the Wimborne nursing home all defining s/w as incompetent. I would should suggest minimising risk is the most important part of assessment; as keeping people safe from harm is imperative.
The principles of assessments are centred on children as they’re more vulnerable. It is an s/w duty to ensure that a child is safe from harm, healthy, in education and social needs are met. Stated by Bradley (2008): effective and appropriate communication, reviews on all events, implementation are aways of evaluating assessments. Contrary to what Margaret Thatcher said; social work is a complex and misunderstood profession, because they are working with the groups and vulnerable people in society.