For this assignment I will explain personal values, prejudices, ethical dilemmas and the impact they have had on social work practice by reflecting on one of my beliefs and how I had to challenge myself to overcome it.
Using Marxists and Feminists views of oppression I aim to identify, recognise, respect and value diverse individuals for which I will give an example of which happened to me and how I had to challenge discrimination towards others.
I will also discuss theoretical frameworks to tackling oppression and discrimination by using the PCS model and how people can become empowered through groups, advocacy or legislation.
Personal values, Prejudices, Ethical Dilemmas, Conflict of Interest and their impact on Social Work Practice
A value is something that concerns someone or a belief they hold, this determines how a person behaves, values do not determine if something is said whether it is right or wrong in today’s society. However, a person’s belief’s can affect how they behave towards others.
“Prejudice is a term which has rather negative connotations and is normally taken to mean a hostile attitude towards a person or group”
(Billingham et al. 2008. Pg. 196)
One of my values and a prejudice of mine is that any job I am employed in will eventually go to people working in a foreign country, especially India. This all stems from when I worked for a third party credit card processor, after giving them nine years of service I was going to be made redundant and my job would be actioned from people in India. For the next two months I would have to train people from there all the applications I was currently or had worked on. This gave me a dilemma do tell them all the information I knew or just some of it? I had to be professional, so I gave them as much information on the applications for which I knew about, I even created user guides to aid with the training and they could use when I had left the company.
When talking to the people I found that we had things in common with each other and they were saddened that a person would lose their job. It wasn’t their fault I was being made redundant but the companies in which we worked for. I had successfully challenged the new belief that had risen from a sad situation.
“Values are only as good as the actions they prompt”
(Preston-Shoot, 1996. Pg 31)
When working with people from other countries I will need to put my own values and prejudices aside, as everyone deserves help and advice in their lives no matter where they come from in the world. If I fail to put my values and prejudices aside whilst working with them it will affect the help they will receive from me, I need to be open minded to all cultures. Thompson (2005) explains that there is a need for genuineness (congruence) to be achieved in social work, that a positive working relationship between service user and social worker is needed based on trust and respect for each other to develop.
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Identify, Recognise, Respect and Value Diverse Individuals
Thompson (2006) describes discrimination as “to identify a difference and is not necessarily a negative term”. But when used in terms of legal, moral or in a political sense it is referred to as being unfair e.g. being unfairly treated for your sexuality or ethnic origin. If this occurs it can lead to a person being oppressed.
When looking at oppression from a Marxists view D’Amato claims that people are oppressed because of the class in which they live in, that women, homosexuals or people of non-white skin are subordinate to the Bourgeoisie and Capitalism is needed in society as it shapes and depends on oppression for its survival. Marxists argue that if racism, sexism or homophobia was to be embraced it will mean that a capitalist government would need to be overthrown and that oppression is essential to the struggle of socialism.
From a Radical Feminists view Zeiber (2008) argues that women are oppressed within the patriarchal system, that marriage and the family are a result of capitalism. Holmstrom (2003) speaks about Socialist Feminism, agreeing that women are oppressed by the dominance of men and of the economic inequality because of the positions of power males have within society.
I work on a farm where we often have Polish as well as British people working there. One year a colleague was making cruel jokes towards the Polish people, as others were making fun at their culture, and their Catholic beliefs were wrong. I could see that something was wrong, so I spoke to them; they told me they felt they were being discriminated against and started to feel very oppressed because they were not British.
Then I spoke to my manager about the situation which was happening and he left me to “deal” with. I had to think about how I was going to approach it so both parties would be happy with the outcome.
So I asked the perpetrator to come outside and talk with me. I told him that the Polish people were unhappy the way in which he was treating them. He was shocked as he thought they were all “having a laugh” with each other. It was hard for me to confront the perpetrator as it was my father, a man I looked up to.
Reflecting on what had happened I knew I had said the correct things to my father as they continued to work with each in harmony, not wanting to offend each other, enabling a good working environment for all.
Discrimination can be found in institutions like the church, prison or by a person in a position of power. It can be covertly actioned by using disguises like the Klu Klux Klan in USA wear masks concealing their identity or overtly actioned like apartheid in South Africa or the BNP in Britain.
Theoretical Frameworks for Understanding Discrimination and Oppression
Thompson (1997) shows how oppression can be analysed using the PCS model and there are three levels:
Personal (P) – an individual’s views e.g. prejudice against a group of people.
Cultural (C) – shared values between others, what is wrong or right, this in turn forms a consensus.
Structural (S) – how oppression of society is formed through institution who support cultural norms & personal beliefs e.g. religion, media or government.
Here is an example of the PCS model in action:
P: Young man in the club you work at makes offensive and derogatory comments about a gay man who attends also. He says that ‘gay people are not natural’ or ‘normal’.
C: Gay people largely repulse the community around him, and many of the community members are involved with the local church, holding firm views about ‘sexual morals’.
S: Popular tabloid media berates the ‘abnormal’ activities of gay people. Religious leaders of all faiths support the instatement of laws to stop equal rights for gay people. Legislation is passed by parliament that compromises the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. There is an overwhelming ‘consensus’ of power used in all forms of structural life.
(Wood, J. 2001)
By using the PCS model it can help a person build an idea as to why others act the way they do e.g. the stereotype of a teenager wearing a hood, you believe they are trouble makers because of what the media have reported, but not every teenager is out for trouble.
Another theoretical framework to tackling oppression and discrimination is through empowerment.
By empowering someone means to enable a person to gain control over and taking responsibility for own their actions. The Humanistic approach by Carl Rogers (1959) encourages people to become empowered.
As student social workers we are taught about empowering the service user, to focus on their strengths and to work together as equals, we also need to safeguard vulnerable people, to take into account a person’s economic, political and cultural background at the same time.
Groups also work to empower people as they offer support and if they act as one they can become powerful. An example of this is from the Times Online dated June 13th 2007 ‘How football made us’ (see attachment 1), by forming a football team for mentally ill patients they each became empowered able to do things on their own without having help from others.
Make use of Strategies to Challenge Discrimination, Inequality and Injustice
There are strategies in place to help educate people about inequality, discrimination and injustice such as advocacy and legislation. As social workers we need to support and speak up for individuals that face being oppressed or discriminated against.
By using advocacy to represent those who are unable to speak up for themselves. E.g. have learning or communication difficulties. Walker (2008) advises that advocacy has it strengths but also has its weaknesses.
Strength from using advocacy are: People who have been socially excluded from mainstream society gain a voice, when a service user has a social worker who listens can be given confidence to speak for themselves, thus growing in self confidence and social workers can learn and understand more on how it feels to be disempowered when listening to a service user.
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But the weaknesses are: there is a danger that the social worker can put their own views forward and not those views of the service user, the advocate can take over, thus the service user can become disempowered and the social worker may find that by using advocacy it can put them in conflict with the organisation in which the work for, their loyalties can become split.
The legislation in place is to help and protect people against inequality and discrimination, for example:
Equal Pay Acts 1970 & 1983 – prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex relating to pay and terms of contract.
Race Relations Act 1976 – prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin.
Later amended in 2000 to include a duty on public authorities in carrying out their duties to have due regard to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote equality.
(Brayne et al, 2010. Pg. 89-90)
The British Association of Social Work (BASW) has a code of ethics relating to how social workers must become more cultural aware. Paragraph 4.1.6 (pg. 49) states that as a social worker you will:
Recognise diversity among cultures and then recognise what the impact of their own cultural & ethnic identity can have on others.
Gain working knowledge and understanding of service users ethnic and cultural affiliations and the values, beliefs and customs associated with them, even though the service users may be different.
Communicate effectively in a language in which both parties will understand, if needs be then by using an independent interpreter.
By using the tools I have learnt through the course I will be able to challenge discrimination, inequality and oppression, I will be more open minded to people that need help from social services and no matter what their cultural background is I will be able to use this knowledge successfully.
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