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Values and Ethics which underpin social work.

In this essay I will define and discuss values and ethics in relation to social work practice, by referring to the work with a service user (V) during my 40days placement with an agency that provides advocacy services to adults with learning disabilities. I will then look at the anti-oppressive practice and analyse the opportunities and dilemmas raised. Finally I will reflect on my own learning from this intervention.

Cynthia (2004p116) states that values are:

“generalised, emotionally charged conceptions of what is desirable; historically created and derived from experience; shared by a population/ group within it and they provide the means for organizing and structuring patterns of behaviour”.

Therefore, values are socially constructed moral codes that guide and control our actions within the social world; as social work practice recognises the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, it has drawn some of its knowledge from anti-oppressive practice and values in order to facilitate individual change. This knowledge helps the social worker to make informed judgements in addressing the barriers, inequalities and injustices that exist in society (Stanford 2005). Values are at the heart of Social work practice and Banks (2001p6) defines them as “a set of fundamental moral or ethical principles, which social workers are or should be committed”. A good social worker needs to be aware of the societal and professional values underlying his or her work so as to empower individuals, families and communities. Both Anti-oppressive practice and values are embodied in the BASW code of ethics.

The Case

An initial referral form was sent to the agency on behalf of V, requesting advocating services. An initial visit, called the 2nd part assessment was arranged and I accompanied my Practice Teacher to meet the support worker and V so as to gather more information. V is in his late 40s with no verbal communication and deaf but uses a lot of gestures and lives in supported accommodation. He drags himself on the floor while moving around in the house and uses a wheelchair to access the community. The support worker explained that V was an outgoing person who enjoyed going to the pub, gym, swimming, bowling, and eating out and so on. However, the Physiotherapist had stopped him going swimming as V was seen as posing risk to other people who were using the pool; although there had been no incidents to support this decision. Also, the Physiotherapist had stopped him going to the gym because it was considered a risk that V had to shuffle on his bottom through 4 steps to access the gym. The staff were in a dilemma as they could not argue on behalf of V because what they said was seen as their views not the service users; they needed an independent person to speak out for V because he wanted to be able to do things he enjoyed doing without being stopped by professionals.

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I found this very disheartening and questioned the physiotherapist’s decision; had she thought about what V enjoyed doing, was this helping V to lead a fulfilling life like any other citizen and had she thought of any other way to support V to go swimming and attend the gym without stopping him completely? I wondered whether the buzzwords “anti-discriminatory practice”, “choice” and “empowerment” meant anything at all to the Physiotherapist. I thought that the Physiotherapist was purely basing her decisions on a medical model,


 “an approach which, although quite a dominant discourse in terms of influencing health and ...

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