How do Social Work values and ethics enable Social Workers to challenge poverty?
In introducing the essay the student aims to define meanings of values and ethics, along with the differences between absolute and relative poverty. They will then go on to exemplify how Social Work values and ethics enable Social Workers to challenge poverty. In this the student will speak about the role of the Social Worker and the way in which reflective and dedicative practise is important. The author also feels it a necessary component to talk about the way in which the impoverished are made to feel and how this relates to the way Social Workers aim to prevent poverty.
Without realising it, we are shaped largely by our cultural surroundings. Values are described as our core beliefs that guide and motivate our attitudes and actions. Ethics are depicted as the way people behave based on how their beliefs about what is right and wrong influence their behaviour. (Warren, 1993) believes ethics are similar to a boat at sea being blown in several ways without sight of a secure harbour in which to refuge. There are many things carrying the boat in other directions, such as consequences, emotions, virtues, principles and duties.
Values and ethics work together to govern how we see the world at large. The term poverty also needs to be defined by the author, in two methods, firstly its relative state and secondly what is meant by absolute poverty. These two terms measure differing poverty issues. Absolute poverty measures the number of people living below a certain income threshold or the number of households unable to afford certain basic goods and services. Relative poverty measures the extent to which a household’s financial resources falls below an average income threshold for the economy.
Relatively speaking this concerns differences in every bodies standards of living as a whole, whereas absolute poverty describes only people earning below a certain amount. The author points out that both concepts concern lack of resources, however, one more importantly highlights the keeping together of body and soul and the other stresses importance of income or resources in relation to the average. People in poverty often feel a great deal of segregation and have assumptions attached to them.
For most in society, this is unintentional and can be put down to ignorance. Moreover, as Social Workers, the student believes the study of anti-discriminative practise prevents this ignorance and allows them to challenge poverty. A question brought to the attention of the author is, ‘Have the values and ethics of the Social Worker always been present from birth or have they been learnt? ‘ This reflects the nature v nurture debate and is significant in the challenging of poverty. The student notes it is the duty of the Social Worker to prevent hardship and suffering.
The significance of anti oppressive practice requires ‘an awareness of the need to be research minded’ (Everitt et al, 1992) and a commitment to ever changing society, along with importance of keeping with the times. Anti oppressive practise is a good example of how Social Workers challenge poverty through their values and ethics, as this is an essential part of Social Work and has set ethical and moral responsibilities. They utilise a reflective practise thus allowing them to reflect on and challenge the way things are dealt with. It also enables them to self-critique and look at the bigger picture; things such as poverty issues.
This is a major aspect of challenging poverty and enables Social Workers to take a step back and look at how they treat others. Social Workers must follow basic values and principles which include human dignity and worth, social justice, service to humanity, integrity and competence. These are imperative to Social Work practise. The Human Rights Act (1998) states you are entitled not only to matters of life and death like freedom from torture and killing but also affect rights in everyday life and similar enitlements, this includes right to own property.
Individuals should be free to make their own choices in life and this is made clear by Kant’s argument (2003. ) He believed that people had the right to be respected and are ‘capable of making their own decisions and choices. It is thought that poverty describes ‘unacceptable hardship’ (Donnison 2001. ) The way in which some people in society choose to name people who are impoverished is felt to be offensive, i. e. ‘tramp’ ‘living on benefits’ or ‘scum’ and the author is certain that Social Workers would not call people who live in poverty by this label. This reflects the way in which Social Workers try to eliminate and challenge poverty.
Social Workers are dedicated to tackling poverty; this is not only evident through their values and ethics but also their morals. Morals are different for every person and relates to our changing circumstance and awareness, our behaviour is guided by our beliefs of what constitutes as good and bad. Most people in society do not question how things are as they have grown acquired to it. However, Social Workers look at the bigger picture and use moral intuition, which allows them to be non judgemental and question if things are right just because they ‘feel right’?
The student concludes when challenging poverty it is thought that Social Workers carry an advantage over others in society. The practise of anti-discriminative learning allows them to use their understanding of society and teaches not to oppress against any set group; such as individuals who experience poverty. They also use a reflective method of working which acknowledges past activities in addition to the way in which they treat people. The author feels that certain individuals in society may be unaware of the overall situation and of the effects it has on some people experiencing poverty; thus appearing ignorant.