Community service work focuses on helping the vulnerable populations and marginalised members of society. Since social workers directly interact with people, their professional values are of great importance to ensure proper practitioner-client relationship. The values underpinning community service work in Australia include social justice, commitment to social inclusion, respect for individual self-determination, confidentiality and integrity. This paper aims to provide a critical review of the domains of human service, challenges faced in terms of social work and theoretical approaches that shape the basis of community service work.
Domains of Human Service
Of a variety of domains existing in the area of human service, it is possible to distinguish between the assistance to individuals, families, groups and communities. In terms of the first domain of providing social services to individuals, social workers are expected to recognise their clients as social beings and creatures (Payne, 2016). This means that professionals should consider individuals’ personal development and offer the guidance that helps them to survive, both physically and psychologically (“Australian community workers ethics and good practice guide”, 2017).
While helping the families, the values of integrity and respect for individual self-determination should be taken into account, which identify the relationships between the family members. It is critical for a social worker to establish a balance in the family, in which its members would achieve a compromise and learn to act as a collaborative team.
The domain of groups implies the assistance to more people who belong to a single category, which can be complicated by the issues of confidentiality, mutual trust and social enhancement needs. In this connection, ethical competences should be employed by social workers, who should maintain the confidentiality of clients and safeguard their right to privacy (Howe et al., 2018). At the same time, the value of social inclusion seems to be significant to promote it in groups, thus creating the feelings of connectedness and appreciation of each other’s contribution (“Practice standards”, 2013).
As for communities, the concept of social justice can be noted as the important professional value that is to be emphasised by social service staff. In Australia, the awareness of other communities, diversity recognition and acceptance as well as greater empathy are the benefits of social service that is provided to communities. For example, social treatment is an instrument that can be used to correct dysfunctional behaviours via counselling, education or other types of therapy.
Social justice is one of those phenomena in which the economic, legal, political and moral conditions of life and development of society are reflected in a condensed form. Cunningham, Baines, and Charlesworth (2014) state that through the prism of social justice, people evaluate the actual environment of their existence. The system of interpersonal relations that has developed in a particular society, its social status, the social division of labour and the distribution of social wealth are the key characteristics (Everingham, 2018). Social justice is defined in the light of two key ethical values, such as fundamental ethical equality and impartiality, which are reflected in the nature of human relations and social institutions.
The scope of social justice assumes that any principles of justice make sense only against the background of a structured social reality. Its features turn into a prerequisite for the search for a fair system of relations between the members of society. The issue of the field of justice can be considered relatively independently of the issue of the definition of justice (Mills, McGregor, Baroutsis, Te Riele, & Hayes, 2016).
However, in reality, their solution is possible only in the course of a comprehensive approach to all the individuals involved in one or another case (Webster, 2016). Therefore, community service workers should apply social justice to follow the principles of fairness and moral correctness. The way the social institutions and the government realise and assist those in need is also a subject of social justice (Garbarino, 2017). Thus, the situations of injustice are to be addressed based on fairness, right protection and prevention measures.
Social Barriers Faced in the Community Service Sector
In terms of the community service sector, the social environment is composed of two views on a given situation, a client’s and social workers’ perspectives. The client has unique characters and refers to a professional to receive certain aid. In turn, the social worker possesses a professional background, practice values and helping roles. According to Mattsson (2014), one of the key barriers faced by both parties is the view of the change process. In particular, the social service employees have skills and techniques, but the abilities and decisions may turn out to be different (Gould & Baldwin, 2016). The inconsistency between the tools of help and a client’s views leads to misunderstanding and low effectiveness of the community service area.
Another social barrier is associated with stigma, which is expressed in a client’s belief that he or she can be perceived as a weak person due to concerns and complains. It is quite difficult for both social workers and clients to overcome stigma since working with shame, embarrassment and the inability to openly discuss the problems requires additional time and efforts. In addition, some communities view the visits to social workers as a taboo, which creates one more barrier that is related to cultural peculiarities (Bø, 2015). Therefore, integrity should be at the core of service, and the counsellors should always act in trustworthy ways (Greene & Schriver, 2016). The recognition of the primary significance of human relationships engages clients in the change process based on communication and patience of community service professionals.
Theoretical Approaches Underpinning Professional Community Service Work
The evidence presents a range of theories that provide the foundation for the community service work area. Chenoweth and McAuliffe (2017) identify the essence and benefits of the human relations approach that implies the view of human interaction as the vehicle for productive change. Consistent with this theoretical approach, the value of human relationships proposes the restoration of a client’s functionality. In turn, a strict evidence-based practice approach promotes the reliance on the evidence-based interventions, which goes in line with the goal of helping people through public service to resolve their social problems (Cheers, 2019; Greenslade, McAuliffe, & Chenoweth, 2015).
In addition, an ethnic-sensitive practice approach is one more advantageous perspective that assigns a top priority to one’s unique background, which is especially important to assist various ethnicities living in Australia.
To conclude, this paper reviews the professional values that are to be adopted by the community service workers in Australia. The analysis of the reliable evidence shows that integrity, social justice, commitment to social inclusion, confidentiality and respect for individual self-determination are the key professional values. Most importantly, they are consistent with the modern theoretical perspectives that emphasise the cultural specifics and evidence-based nature of the services to be provided by social workers. Human relationships and communication are regarded as the driving forces that help the counsellors to implement the expected professional values in practice.
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