Values in Contemporary Social Work

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Shared values are essential in the creating a successful relationship between the client and social worker. Social workers operate within society, not only to assist the individual but to create a more cohesive society. Values and ethics permeate the whole of social work practice and the society within which it practices (Shardlow 1989). Values are afforded a high position within social work, this is highlighted in: “Social work is a professional activity. Implicit in its practice are ethical principles which prescribe the professional responsibility of the social worker” (British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Code of Ethics). However, there is a danger that any list of values will become something which is quoted as opposed to a useful tool for practice. Values can be helpful as they enable the social worker to analyse their practice in relation to the expectations of the law and the needs of the people they work with.

What are values? Is there a place for them in contemporary social work? Is it even possible to define what constitutes values in contemporary social work? Biestek created a list of seven principles with the intention of showing social workers how clients ought to behave. These principles may have been well meaning but they hardly reflect everything that is going on in contemporary society. The very existence of a list of morals can be damaging to social work as it creates a feeling of security based on the presumption that the list itself incorporates everything required for successful practice. Values determine what a person thinks they should do, which may not exactly be the same as what they want to do. Personal values allow us to evaluate the actions of others in relation to our own...

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