1.7 ‘Care values’ in relationships
In his dealings with Lynne and Arthur, Dev is expected to speak and act in accordance with the basic values of the social work profession. CCETSW guidelines include the requirement that he should:
Identify, analyse and take action to counter discrimination, racism, disadvantage, inequality, and injustice, using strategies appropriate to role and context; and
Practise in a manner that does not stigmatise or disadvantage either individuals, groups or communities.
(CCETSW, 1995, Part 2, p. 18)
Activity 11: Promoting care values
In the light of these requirements, what is Dev’s responsibility when Arthur says, ‘She’s not really all there’ and ‘She should have been put away years ago’? What should he identify and analyse? What actions might he take?
If he is to comply with the values base, Dev ought to identify that Arthur is displaying a discriminatory attitude towards Lynne’s learning disability. He is speaking from a well-established ‘script’ which defines people with learning disabilities as not proper people – less than full members of adult society. He is positioning Lynne as someone whose actions are not rational, whose interests do not need to be taken into account, who should be ‘put away’ from the society of ‘normal’ people.
Dev should also analyse the situation in the Durrants’ home and recognise the impact on Lynne of Arthur’s attitudes, since the two of them are cooped up together in their small flat.
Taking action to counter Arthur’s attitudes could involve working with all parties to discuss Lynne’s needs, give recognition to her contribution to Arthur’s welfare, and encourage Arthur to see Lynne’s point of view. (It would not include talk along the lines of ‘sending Lynne away’.)
Although his attention is focused on the risk of violence to Arthur, Dev should be careful not to practise in a manner which stigmatises Lynne.
Lynne’s disability raises one set of difficult values issues. Her final cry to Dev raises another – there is no difficulty here in identifying racism. However, having analysed the situation, Dev may feel inclined to make allowances for Lynne’s learning disability. And when it comes to taking action to counter it, Dev may be very accustomed to racism; prejudice and threats are hazards many care workers encounter regularly. To assume he has an obligation to take action himself is actually adding to his burden. He might well regard combating racism towards himself as a responsibility shared with his colleagues and supervisors, and choose to ignore Lynne’s taunt.
Some care situations are highly ambiguous.
Care workers’ interpretations of them may be actively contested by clients.
Care work may require renegotiating the meaning of a care situation in partnership with clients and other care workers.
Care workers are responsible for trying to ‘define situations’ in ways which uphold their professional value base