By Toni-Nicole Sharp
Introduction to Social Work
Access to Professional Social Care
Word Count: 2177
"Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate and to connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives." (Oprah, N.d) Social work, in modern society, is an essential public service. It helps to improve the quality of life to some of the most vulnerable individuals, whether they are children, disabled, transgender or in a civil partnerships. Social Workers (SWs) provide services which are guided around many different legislations, which lay the foundries to how they may provide services and help for their service users'. SWs must also have an insight to what human development involves, this is to aid them in choosing the actions that will tackle any of the requirements each individual requires.
Ethical problems often occur because SWs work with conflicting interests and competing rights. All SWs have a role to support, empower and protect people whilst having statutory duties and other obligations that may restrict people’s freedom. They could also be constrained by the availability of resources that are available for use and the institutional policies society has. Therefore the code of ethics is put into place in workplaces to protect people who use their services or work as employees. The code of ethics states that SWs must maintain professionalism by upholding values of the profession and maintain all professional boundaries. A social worker must also be trustworthy and accountable for their own actions, perform risk assessments and use professional judgment in situations. Whilst developing professional relationships when appropriate, SWs must be able to manage duties in general whilst gaining informed consent when it applies. A social must also uphold the service users’ rights by empowering and challenging abuse of these rights. As well as maintaining confidentiality and keeping clear and accurate records. SWs must also be able to promote dignity, privacy, respect, autonomy, effective communication and safety. The last part in the code of ethics requires SWs to use objectivity and have self awareness whilst at work, be able to reflect on decisions and provide peer support and are required to always stay up to date on any training and any new research or legislation that is required within their sectors. (BASW, 2012) (Class Notes, 2012)
Another document in which SWs must oblige with is the standards of proficiency. This is to protect the service users’ and employees because it states appropriate practice within the workplace. The standard of proficiency (SOP) document for SWs is a set of guidelines for safe and effective practice. SWs must consider these standards to protect members of the public. (HCPC, 2012)
Section one explains that SWs must know their limits, manage their workload, be able to undertake assessments of risk, manage unexpected situations and also be able to recognize signs of abuse and respond appropriately.
Section two explains that SWs must be able to understand relevant laws, promote the best interests of the service users and their carers, address any risky practices, manage any conflicting interests, use authority within legal frameworks, uphold the rights, dignity and values of users and manage their power dynamics.
Section three and eleven and twelve explains that SWs must maintain high standards of professional conduct and be able to manage their own health and wellbeing. Understand the reason as to why skills and knowledge need to remain up to date. Maintain their personal and professional boundaries, as well as manage their physical and emotional impacts. whilst effectively using supervision to enhance practice and contribute to evaluations (HCPC, 2012) (Class Note, 2012)
(Continued in appendix 1: Standards of Proficiency Continued.)
In a multicultural and diverse society, SWs must recognise the need for diversity within practice. Therefore anti discriminatory practice is a must have in all areas of social work. This is done to help protect those who are vulnerable to acts of discrimination. Both the codes of ethics and the standards of proficiency relate to anti discriminatory acts and how to respond appropriately if it should occur. (Pitt, 2011)
Examples from the codes of ethics are as follows: "Section 2.1: Upholding and promoting human dignity and well-being." (BASW, 2012, pg. 8) "Section 2.2: Respecting the right to self determination." (BASW, 2012, pg. 8) "Section 2.4: Treating each person as a whole." (BASW, 2012, pg.8)
Examples from the standards of proficiency are as follows: "Section 5.2: understand the need to adapt practice to respond appropriately to different groups and individuals." (HCPC, 2012, Pg. 9) "Section 5.4: understand the impact of different cultures and communities and how this affects the role of the social worker in supporting service users and carers." (HCPC, 2012, Pg. 9) "Section 6.2: be able to use practice to challenge and address the impact of discrimination, disadvantages and oppression" (HCPC, 2012, Pg. 9)
Even with legislation in place, as a social worker, employees are required to know about human development. This is to make sure that their service users are at the right stage of development. One theorist in human development is Jean Piaget, (1896 - 1980) he was the first psychologist to come up with theories of Human development in cognitive development. He contributed in creating the cognitive child development theory, detailed observational studies of cognition within children and a series of simple tests to reveal different cognitive abilities amongst adults and children. Before Piaget, the common assumption in psychology was that children were less competent thinkers than that of adults. However Piaget showed that young children think and behave in completely different ways, when compared to adults. According to Piaget, all children are born with a very basic level of mental structure, which is genetically inherited and evolves, on which all later learning and knowledge is based on. (McLeod, 2012)
Piaget's theories differed from others in many ways; the theories were more concerned with children, rather than all learners. They focused mostly on cognitive development, rather than just learning and specific behaviors. It purpose was to separate the different stages of development and marked by qualitative differences, rather than the gradual increase in behaviors, concepts, ideas and so on. The theory was put in place to explain the processes by which an infant develops into an adult who can use reason and think using hypotheses. (McLeod, 2012)
To Piaget, cognitive development was a continuous reorganization of all the different mental processes a child experiences as they learn. This was due to biological maturation and environmental experience. Children construct their understanding of knowledge from the world around them, and then experience discrepancies from what they have already learnt and what new discoveries they make in their environment. (McLeod, 2012)
The development stages are split into four categories: Sensorimotor (0-2 years old, babies to toddlers), Babies are starting to become aware of the things around them. Allowing them to discover what these things can be made to do. Preoperational (2-7 years old, toddlers to children), Thoughts and processes continue to develop. Children are starting to use symbols through their play. Children still require the need to feel and see the objects to learn about them. Concrete operational (7-11 years old, children to pre-adolescence), Children at this stage are starting to think using more logic. They have developed the ability to follow game rules and can use symbols such as letters and numbers more fluently. Formal operational (11 years old plus, pre-adolescence to adulthood), Young people become capable of using their own knowledge to plan, predict and speculate situations. (McLeod, 2012)(Class Notes, 2012)
(Jean Piaget: Cognitive Development Theory: Stages of Development Continued in appendix 2)
SWs use human development theories to set a base line for attachment and learning development. This is so that if an individual does not reach a certain level of development, tests can be put into place to see if there are any underlying reasons as to why they have not developed in certain stages. Underlying reasons could be from abuse, neglect, learning disabilities or mental health illnesses. SWs would apply these theories within practice to make justified judgments on a person's social well being and development and decide on an action to actively target these problems. (Class Notes, 2012)
"The truth is that we work with a complete spectrum – people from different backgrounds and cultures. We do so professionally, based on clear legal and policy guidelines, and act only after we have carried out thorough assessments of the clients’ needs. That’s the reality." (College of Social Work, 2013 [Online])
Social care covers most of the practical support provided within public and residential settings, including a wide range of services. This can be from personal care to direct debit payments, transport, home adaptations and so on. Social care is often better understood for what it is not, such as health or education. Social care services plays an essential role in helping to secure the participation of disabled individuals by providing them with support that promotes their independence within society, social inclusion; whilst enabling them to have a choice and control for their own lives. Making sure that they get it right for disabled persons needs is the one of the key point for this part of the social care sector. There is some relevant evidence that shows some disabled individuals have experiences with situations such as domestic violence, homelessness and substance abuse. (Disability Rights Commission, 2005)
The role of a social worker within the learning disabilities sector is to provide education, support and advice to those who are vulnerable. SWs are there to help provide practical advice on benefits that the service users can get to help financially, to aid them in finding services for education or social wellbeing. They will also provide support on how to help manage behavior and which teaching skills are appropriate for each individual service user. SWs will provide emotional support for parents, carers or service users when there has been bereavement, if they are lonely or stressed and respite care advice for carers and parents. SWs provide person-centred planning for each individual, which is tailored to the service users’ specific needs and choices within reason. This particular area of social work could include vulnerable individuals who may have, Autism, Asberger’s Syndrome, epilepsy and so on; it could also include individuals who have been abused or in need of psychotherapy, challenging behaviour, fostering and adoption of individuals with a learning disability, pre-natal and peri-natal counselling. Almost 60% of service users who have a learning disability have a sensory impairment and the other 40% have either a sight problem or a hearing problem or could have both. (Williams, 2009) (Class Notes, 2012)
The appropriate piece of legislation for learning disabilities is the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act brings together all the legal requirements on equity that the private, public and voluntary sectors need to follow. It affects how the equality law at work and in the delivering of services and clubs. The Equality Act replaces all of the previous equality laws, such as the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The new law is based on the most current legislations which have been streamlined; however there are some important differences, which are set out in modules. The Equality Act protects nine main characteristics within work, employees and service users, these are as follows: disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, sex (gender) and age. (Legislation.gov, 2010) (Class Notes, 2012)
The Equality Act has several new rules to protect individuals who have a form of disability, whether it is physical or mental health related. The Equality act states they should a school pupil needs require special equipment or help because of their disability the school then must provide it, within reason. The act makes the law on reasonable adjustments much clear. Reasonable adjustments are the changes an employer or the person in charge has to make so that disabled individuals are able to do something; such as getting into the building or having information available in large print and easy to read. Another section states that information needs to be accessible for disabled people, so it needs to be a different variety of packs that will suit the needs of the individual, for items such as council letters or bank statements, either in brail or large print. Therefore SWs must be aware that should they work within the disability sector they may have to adjust paperwork into different reading formats to fit the individuals needs. Provide reasonable adjustments if required such as; disabled toilets, elevators if possible or ramps. They must not discriminate any individuals and should any difficulties occur with the individuals or their carers, there should always be just cause as to what may or may not happen and it is not just purely because of their disability. (Class Notes, 2012) (Legislation.gov, 2010)
In summary, our society is a much safer place for vulnerable people because SWs are out in the community fighting for the rights of those who do not have a voice to do so. SWs should continue to try to prevent any incidents of oppression to prevent anyone from being discriminated against just because they are different from societies view.
Williams, P. (2009) Social work with people with learning difficulties. 2nd edn. Exeter: Learning Matters. (Transforming social work practice).
British Association of Social Workers (BASW). (2012). The code of ethics of social work [Online]. Available: http://vle.peterborough.ac.uk/mod/resource/view.php?id=24361. [Accessed 21st of January 2013]
Class Notes. (2012). Analysis of BASW code of ethics [Online]. Available: http://vle.peterborough.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=450 [Accessed 21st of January 2013]
Class Notes. (2012). Analysis of HCPC Standards of Proficiency SW [Online]. Available: http://vle.peterborough.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=450 [Accessed 21st of January 2013]
Class Notes. (2012). Equality Act 2010 [Online]. Available: http://vle.peterborough.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=450 [Accessed 9th of January 2013]
Class Notes. (2012). Equality Act 2010 info [Online]. Available: http://vle.peterborough.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=450 [Accessed 9th of January 2013]
Class Notes. (2012). Social Work with people who have a learning disability [Online]. Available: http://vle.peterborough.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=450 [Accessed 21st of January 2013]
College of Social Work (CSW). (2013). Supporting people with learning disabilities [Online]. Available: http://www.collegeofsocialwork.org/standard-2col-rhm-mediacentre.aspx?id=6442451117 [Accessed: 16th of January 2013]
Disability Rights Commission. (2005). The Social Care sector and the Disability Equality Duty: A guide to the disability equality duty and disability discrimination act 2005 for social care organisations. [Online]. Available: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/PSD/43_social_care_guidance.pdf [Accessed: 21st of January 2013]
Legislation.gov (2010). Equality Act 2010 [Online]. Available: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
[Accessed: 21st of January 2013]
McLeod, S. (2012). Jean Piaget [Online]. Available: http://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html [Accessed 9th of January 2013]
McLeod, S. (2007). Lev Vygotsky [Online]. Available: http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html [Accessed 9th of January 2013]
Oprah (N.d). 58 quotes to inspire leadership, resilience and social change. [Online]. Available: http://www.rosettathurman.com/2010/10/58-quotes-to-inspire-leadership-resilience-and-social-change/ [Accessed: 22nd of January 2013]
Pitt, V. (2011). Promoting diversity in social work practice to combat oppression [Online]. Available: http://www.communitycare.co.uk/articles/02/03/2011/116352/promoting-diversity-in-social-work-practice-to-combat-oppression.htm [Accessed: 16th of January 2013]