Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Please note that all times are shown in the time zone of the conference. The current conference time is: 27th Jan 2022, 04:22:16am EET

Session Overview
Paper Presentation Session 5: Ethics and Vulnerabilities/Inequalities
Wednesday, 16/June/2021:
11:45am - 1:15pm

Session Chair: Melanie Plößer
Location: Parallel Session 5

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Ethical Approaches to Differences in Social Work

Melanie Plößer

University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld / Faculty of Social Work, Germany

Since the middle of the 1990s, the subject of ‘difference’ has been dealt with intensively in international social work theory. Especially such studies, that are closely related to social movements like gender studies, disability or postcolonial studies have shown that differences are constituted in relations of power and dominance. They have also made clear that social work risks to (re-)produce existing inequalities and discriminations by ignoring differences as well as by referring to differences unquestioningly. Thus social workers are faced with the ethical dilemma of having to refer to differences like gender, ethnicity or class to counter inequalities on the one hand. And on the other hand, social workers risk to (re-)produce stereotypes and discriminations by unreflected approaches to differences. The ethical question of how social work can deal with differences without producing new inequalities and exclusions can be understood as an important topic in training social work students.

In my paper I would like to talk about ethical approaches of dealing with differences in social work. With reference to a case study from youth work, I will start with presenting three understandings of difference. First, I would like to work out, that differences are powerful. Secondly, I will talk about social constructive perspectives on difference as something that we do. Thirdly, I will present deconstructive concepts, that understand differences as effects of powerful discourses. Because each theoretical understanding of difference leads to a particular approach of dealing with these differences, I will then discuss three ethical approaches to difference: first, the recognition of difference; second, the critical reflection of “doing difference” and third, the critical inquiry, or in other words, the deconstruction of binary oppositions and rigid norms. Finally, it should be made clear that there is no approach to otherness and difference that is able to avoid the epistemological and social effects of power. Though there are ethical approaches which will help social workers to minimize the risk of exclusions and discriminations.

The gender stereotype in social work. Outcomes of a national survey on social workers in Italy.

Marta Pantalone1, Roberto Dalla Chiara1,2, Carlo Soregotti1,4, Vittorio Zanon3

1University of Verona, Italy; 2Local Health Authority, Veneto Region; 3Municipality of Verona; 4Azienda “Socialis” Suzzara (MN)

The women’s overwhelming majority within disciplines and professions related to social care are notorious as well as historical. Social Work finds its roots in charity organizations activities and practices traditionally associated to female features. The reflection on the scarcity of male social workers is not recent. In 1976 Kadushin raised the issue of gender segregation in social service by addressing the ‘problem’ of men in the profession, highlighting how gender issue was already widely debated.

In Italy, the prevalence of female social workers it’s something obvious: male social workers are less than 7% of the total.

This contribution aims to investigate the perception caused by the gender difference between social workers, in terms of skills, characteristics and perspectives, and how this difference is detected in different work contexts. We checked whether and how gender stereotypes are reflected in the perception that social workers (male or female) have of themselves, their abilities and their characteristics. We performed an online survey, on a sample of 1616 Italian social workers and social work students.

The research shows that most of the skills and sensibilities needed to be a good social worker are considered gender-neutral, but also that some features (e.g. the expected women’s greater sensitivity or men’s greater desire for a career) are likely to bring out a gender stereotype that seems to be introjected by social workers themselves. Here, the maternal help relationship seems to be a female feature, more accentuated in particular areas (women victims of violence, separated women, adoptions); while on the contrary, more complex relationships, with aggressive and/or threatening people, are characterized by the demand for a greater presence of men, a space in which women social workers themselves report an absence.

The conclusions lay the basis for further reflections, that could help both in understanding the causes of this unbalanced gender distribution and its implications for citizens, social workers and their institutions. It also wants to address possible strategies to arise men’s interest in social work, facilitating the deconstruction of stereotypes that possibly prevent men from being actively responsible for their communities’ social needs.

Covid-19 and Care Homes for Older People in Europe: Deaths, Damage and the Violations of Human Rights

Janet Anand1, Sarah Donnelly2, Alisoun Milne3, Holly Holly Nelson-Becker4, Blanca Blanca Ayala Deusdad5, Emmeli Vingare6, Giovanni Cellini7, Reeli Sirotkina8, Riitta- Lisa Kinni1

1University of Eastern Finland, Finland; 2Univeristy College Dublin; 3Univeristy of Kent; 4Brunel University; 5Rovira i Virgili University; 6Linnaeus University; 7University of Turin; 8Talinn Univerity

Throughout Europe the most damaging consequences of the coronavirus have fallen disproportionately on older people who live in care homes. While advanced age, and its associated health-related comorbidities, is linked to a higher mortality risk from COVID-19 this, of itself, does not explain the high rate of death, and serious harms, experienced by older care home residents. A significant contributing factor to the excess number of deaths is the abject disregard of older people’s human rights. Using the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights (1950) this presentation draws on examples of human rights violations, namely the right to life, liberty, security, family life, integration and prohibition from torture and discrimination, in care homes from six European countries. A critical review of evidence relating to violations of human rights of care homes residents during the pandemic was conducted to support claims made. A range of materials and examples were analysed, including peer reviewed articles, grey literature, publicly available ‘official’ documents (e.g. government reports) and data, and written and online media (e.g. newspaper articles). The authors, a group of social work academics, call for an urgent re-examination of the human rights in older people in care homes, a rapid response to the failing systems of aged care evident across many countries, and acknowledgement of the abuse of trust that has occurred between European states and older people in care homes. This crisis should also act as a ‘call to arms’ for social work in response to human rights violations, abuse and institutional ageism. This paper throws up new questions and challenges as to the human rights and ethical mandate of European gerontological social work. It is therefore necessary to learn from the pandemic, look for new strategies and consider what kind of profession social work should be?

Social Work with young offenders: learning strategies that upset ethics

Laura Pinto

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy

In our action and preparing to act as social workers in the field of juvenile justice, we underestimate the fact that dealing with offenders upsets the ethical and foundation values of SW.

In order to work with offenders, studying and applying a methodological approach for involuntary clients is not enough.

Recognition of emotions and worldviews around justice is needed as much as deviance and how it is intertwined with drug use, violent action, sex, power.

In order to face offenders it is necessary to implement and rethink the application of ethical dictates on the acceptance of the other and, in reality, to act, although lightly, the opposite way from the rhetoric of unconditional acceptance of the other's diversity.

In the SWE’s field it is essential to encourage a learning process using workshop, with tools such as interview simulations, court hearings and critical writing exercises.

For this type of work it is essential to sense the indignation and go through it giving words to explain to the other the existential nature of the consequences of his gesture: not only damage, but widespread fear, anger and distrust.

To really meet the individual offender you need an empathic judgment based on fears that lurk in society and in common sense and, at a later stage, you need to speak to the author (who had no words) in order to describe with him the consequences for himself as well as what happened (loneliness, mistrust, marginalization, judgment).

Giving dignity to the perpetrator is a process that must go through the indignation and fear of the other, with a work that helps to re-describing and re-giving a sense to events using words.

If this step is avoided, the risk is that the nature of the relationship with the person remains closely linked to the degree of collaborative and "gratifying" attitude towards us (emanation of the power of the judge).

The presentation will refer to a four-year teaching experience in the social work degree course at the University of Eastern Piedmont and to a research on the reports produced by the students of the last three years.

Ethic codes and the new ecosocial paradigm: Lessons for social work teaching

Ingo Stamm

Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius, Finland

The presentation focuses on the importance of environmental justice and sustainability in national ethic codes and ethics education in social work. It is based on a study on the ethic codes of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Finland. The research examines the occurrence and significance of terms and concepts such as ecology, natural environment, environmental justice, sustainability and sustainable development in these documents. The findings show that even though the international social work organizations IFSW, IASSW and ICSW have emphasized the relevance of the natural environment for social work ethics during recent years, this connection plays currently only a minor role. Even if the natural environment or sustainability are mentioned, the ethic codes do not make the link to social work practice and what it would mean for an ethical behavior of social workers. The implications of sustainability and environmental justice for an ethical social work practice stay at best cloudy. The results coincide with other recent studies, for example on the ethics codes of Australia, the US and the UK. The position of the social work profession towards the environment is also here mostly vague. The profession could make use of conceptual work and social work research during the last 20 years on ecosocial work and get impulses from (new) social movements such as the environmental justice movement in the US or the Fridays for Future movement. In times of climate change the profession finally needs to take a stance regarding the environment and further develop a clear idea what sustainability means in social work practice in cooperation with clients. This should also be reflected in social work education. The revision of national ethics codes and the implementation of the environment in ethics education in social work are first steps towards that direction.

Thinking Trans in Human Service Organizations: A Summer Course

Sofia Mikaela Smolle

Mid Sweden University, Sweden

Currently, most of Sweden’s social work and psychology education lacks in-depth, knowledge-enhancing initiatives about gender identity and gender expression. Transgender people in Sweden – Proposals for a stronger position and better living conditions (SOU 2017:92), a report by the Swedish Government, indicates major shortcomings in the treatment by health professionals of trans people in primary health care, psychiatric facilities, youth clinics, elderly care, student health centres, social services, schools, etc. Furthermore, limited knowledge and a lack of professional skills are factors that have negatively impacted the ability of health professionals to meet the demands of those in need. Social workers and psychologists who receive the necessary in-depth training can contribute to the increased visibility of trans people and their potential needs, and will be better equipped to meet the demands as they arise. This could be particularly significant at the present time – given the political developments that are heading in a direction that is negatively impacting human rights and trans visibility in Europe.

Based on the background provided above, a summer course was initiated at Mid Sweden University. The course was called Gender Identity and Expression in Human Service Organizations (7.5 credits) and contained several interdisciplinary elements in order to meet the needs of the wide variety of professionals who work in a human service organization. 150 students were accepted for the course, which was originally introduced in June 2020. Prior to the start of the summer course, a survey was sent out to all the participating students. The survey comprised questions about the students’ occupation and educational background, why they had applied to the course, how they perceived their own knowledge of trans issues prior to the course and what aspects (social, legal, organizational, psychological etc.) they considered to be particularly relevant to learn more about during the course. A total of 108 survey responses were received.

The purpose of the present study was to summarize the work process of the course. This summary was intended to act as an aid for sharing and exchanging valuable experiences with others who are interested in developing similar courses.

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