Professional Values and Ethics

Table of Content


For the purpose of this essay, I will consider what professional values and ethics are and why they are important. This essay will also examine my personal values and ethics and discuss possible conflicts between my own values and professional values. The essay will consider what oppressive and anti-oppressive practices are and will use examples throughout from scenario two of the values and ethics unit handbook. (66)

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1. Explain what values and ethics are and their importance in relation to the scenario. (define what values and ethics are, describe why they are important, the impact they have on the case scenario and briefly mention BASW code of ethics and GSCC code of conduct)

What are professional ethics?

Ethics are ideas that deal with morals to help us distinguish between rights and wrong. Banks (2006:24) describes ethics as:

‘The systematic study of ethical principles that form traditions such as: Utilitarianism’ (action rooted in outcomes), ‘Kantian’ (rooted in duty) and ‘radical’ (rooted in challenge).

However, social workers have to follow a set of ethics, which the British Social Work Association (BSWA) recommended which include:

‘Human dignity and worth, social justice, service to humanity, integrity and competence’, which are the five basic core ethics, to provide professionals with a framework on decision- making, and for working relationships.

Utilitarianism Principles:

‘Social workers have to look to the consequences of their actions and weight up which action would be least harmful / most beneficial to the user, and which action would benefit most efficiently’ Parrott (2006:51).

However, Mill ‘in’ (Parrott, L. 2006:51) argued ‘that actions should be judged on the greatest good for the greatest number’. In view of Haley, we might suggest that there is sight of some guidelines about the treatment available to ‘drug users’ and then we can assess as to how to minimise harm to all concerned.

Kantian principle:

Kant, (1964:96) stated ‘we should treat others as beings who have ends not just as objects or a means to our own ends’. For me this is not about obeying or acting on our indications or looking after my own interests. An example of this is lying by saying to Haley that every thing is going to be all right with Ellie when research suggests that drug taking can harm unborn babies.

Radical principle:

( )

‘It regards the human freedom as a myth and does not see individuals as the basic unit in society’. A key theme of radical social work is the notion of committed action. The radical principle was seen as ‘being oppressive, structural, in justice and discriminatory” ( ). In the scenario, this may be due to some workers not wanting to work with Haley due to her ‘drug abuse’. Haley could become stigmatised, deprived and discriminated against when trying to access services.

What are values?

Values are things that are meaningful to us, whether we are consciously aware of them or not. We need to identify the values we hold as an individual and how these are implemented and the impact they have on our lives. Values are what we believe to be right. Parrott (2006:17) stated that ‘working from a professional value is a guide to professional behaviours that maintain identity and can protect service users from malpractice’.

The General Social Care Council (GSCC) have produced a code of conduct that describes the standards they would like social workers to practice within, this includes:

‘Protecting the rights and promote the interests of service users…, … establish and maintain trust and confidence…, promote independence of ….users while protecting them from harm, respect the rights of service users….’

The importance of a professional value is that it is expected to guide Social Workers and protect the interests of service users. (498)

2. Examine your own value base and prejeduices in relation to the scenario. (What was your initial reaction, what constitutes personal values, how your views are formed, define bias, define prejudices).

When I first read the scenario, I had many thoughts going around some were positive and some were negative. I personally do not see ‘drug use’ a problem providing that they are not causing any problems and keep it to them selves. However, I do have a problem if it involves crime or damage to a child.

Some of my initial thoughts were why had she decided to go down this route when she had potential in a profession? Was it that she felt that she did not have a life anymore as she spent all her time studying? I then began to question whether she was struggling with her university degree and felt that she could not speak to her family about it, and did her family know at all.

I began to question whether she did it to be part of a crowd where she had no justifiable excuse, which lead me to think that she was vulnerable at university and pressured by her fellow peers.

I then began to think why she decided to come off the drugs. Was it because she had seen what it had done to her daughter or, was she now free of the man or crowd that had lead her down this route.

What constitutes a value and how are they formed and influenced?

Many things can influence our values, such as family, our culture, friends and peers in education and our place of employment.

I have a strong positive value base in Haley’s case because I am happy to work with Haley if she is determined to work with me. Haley is willing to come of the drugs as she has seen what it has done to her daughter. I believe that people should be given a second chance if they are willing to help themselves. My values are built on equal opportunities, challenging discrimination and ensuring everyone has fair access to the services they require.

I believe that Haley should be treated as an individual no matter what she has done in the past. My college peers were on drugs and were given a chance to change their lives around. You have to build a mutually respectful relationship regardless of what they have done.

I feel that Haley should have Ellie at home, as she has a very supportive family. I believe that with the support of her family she will do well for herself, in finishing her degree in law.

I do not think that we can judge people without knowing them first. Of course, not everyone takes drugs in times of trouble, but for a cry of help.

Our values can change according to our circumstances; therefore, not all of our personal values imply a negative connotation. Our own values can help us to become more self-aware, which helps us to understand how people perceive us and help us to make ethical decisions.

Definiation of Bias

The Oxford English dictionary defines the word bias as ‘An influence favouring one of a group unfairly’. (:45)

Definiation of prejudice

The Oxford English dictionary defines the word prejudice as ‘a preconceived opinion, harm to someone’s rights’ (:405)


3. describe potential conflicts between personal and professional values.

(You need to think about the potential conflict between personal values and the professional values. You should discuss how these could influence you in relation to the scenario. For example, what you want to do on an individual level may not be the same as what you should do as a professional. You need to look at BASW and GSCC and how these go against the scenario. Define parternalism)

3. Describe oppression and anti oppressive practice in relation to the scenario. (define oppression, define anti oppression, use Thompson PCS model.)

What is oppression?

Thompson, (2001:34) describes oppression as:

‘Inhuman or degrading treatment of individuals or groups; in hardship and in justice brought about by the dominance of one group over another; the negative and demeaning exercise of power. Oppression often involves disregarding the rights of an individual or group and this is a denial of citizenship’.

We can describe Haley as being oppressed as she has acquired the label of a possible criminal (given that some ‘drug users’ are criminals), and ‘druggie’, yet there is no reason to believe that this was not part of her nature, given that she had a good education.

Oppression does not just happen to individuals. It happens to groups of one kind or another. We have to remember that oppression is not something that is only practiced by the powerful or those in authority. We all have the potential to be oppressor and oppressed.

Oppression can act at three levels, these levels of oppression offers a framework for looking at how inequalities and discrimination manifest themselves. Thompson (2001:21-23) defines them as:

‘Personal level which relates to an individuals thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions. Cultural level which looks at shared ways of seeing, thinking, and doing. Structural level relates to matters such as policy.’

Haley was oppressed using the PCS model.

Personally because would I want to work with her? Should Haley and Ellie be allowed to return to the squat? This obviously would go against her human rights by not being allowed to choose. Haley also has the right to voice her views.

Should John be denied access to Ellie given that he is a drug dealer or should he be given the chance to have supervised contact with Ellie.

Culturally because society sees them as a waste of time, they commit to many crimes, they are dirty, it is their own fault, and that they are to blame for their problems. Therefore Haley can be socially excluded and the community fear for their own safety. Our cultural also has a drug free policy.

Structurally because social workers are not required to do any drug training and the attitudes are stereotypical.

They also have limited access to services; however, the local hospital in last week’s paper (Boston Target Wednesday 17th January 2006) stated that ‘there are beds here for pregnant drug users’.

What is anti-oppressive practice?

Parrott (2006:23) describes AOP as ‘a general value orientation towards countering oppression experienced by service users on such grounds as race, gender etc’. AOP are also values of working in partnership and empowerment. It is also a way of linking our lived experience with the categories of the relations of ruling.

The use of language is particular important. As Pugh has argued, ‘language is much more than a means of expression, but is the product and carrier of social culture’ (1992). Language can be seen as both reflecting and reinforcing inequality. Thompson (1998) goes on to say that ‘this has been particular evident in the way in which language has often reflected the world in masculine terms’. We have to remember that it is important to not feel too worried about saying the wrong thing.



It is important to draw out the values that people bring to their work and to seek agreement on core values. We need to be clear about our own values, know the values of the organisation and service users and to encourage discussions of values in our own teams.

Where personal values create discomfort, it has been my experience that allowing them to be raised allows a greater diversity of views to be valued and to contribute to good practice. (80)


Banks, S. (2006) Ethics and Values in social work. 3rd Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

British Association of Social Workers (2002) code of ethics for Social Work. Birmingham: BASW.

Parrott, L. (2006) Values and ethics in Social Work practice. Exeter: Learning matters Ltd.

Kant, I. (1964) Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals. New York: Harper Row.

Thompson, N. (2001) Anti Discriminatory practice, 3rd Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Toulson, G. (2007)’ midwife for pregnant drug users’ Boston Target. Wednesday 17th January 2006.

Scenario two

Haley is a 24-year woman who, until 18 months ago, was an undergraduate on a law degree. Haley had a promising career ahead of her and her hard work was reflected in the excellent marks she had been achieving. Haley’s family were especially proud of her, as she has been the only one in their family, to date, who had gone into higher education.

Prior to going to university Haley lived with her older brother Ben and mum and dad. She had always done well at school and was described by her parents as ambitious, fun loving and a wonderful daughter.

Haley dropped out of university one month into her final year and went to live with her boyfriend, John in a squat. John is a heroin user and deals in order to fuel his drug dependency.

Haley has been using heroin for approximately a year and recently gave birth to a little girl, who was born heroin dependent. Even though Haley was aware of the impact this would have on her unborn child it was only when Ellie was born that Haley truly understood what this meant.

By working with her social worker, Haley acknowledges the impact drug use is having on her life and this has initiated a strong desire for change. She has decided to go into rehabilitation with a view to returning to university to continue with her degree. Her family continue to be supportive of Haley and the baby and her parents have offered to support Haley with childcare so she can access a rehabilitation programme and then continue with her studies.

As a Practitioner consider and discuss dilemmas, conflict and the impact that this would have on your personal and professional values taking care to incorporate the specific assessment criteria as highlighted on the next page. You do NOT need to consider any legal implications.

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Professional Values and Ethics. (2017, Dec 24). Retrieved from

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