5 Int'l Soc. Work 1 (1962)

handle is hein.journals/intsocwk5 and id is 1 raw text is: 





   PROFESSIONAL ETHICS FOR SOCIAL WORKERS

(A  Synthesis  of Reports  from  National   Associations in Several Countries)

                              Eliane B. Brunner*


R  ECOGNITION of human dignity and value, and
     respect for  every  individual  regardless of  his
political opinion, religious affiliation, or ethnic origin are
basic to the professional practice of social work. This
universal concept underlies the ethics of the social work
profession and is expressed in the Codes of nine profes-
sional social work  associations which responded   to a
questionnaire put to its members   by the International
Federation of  Social Workers. This study provided
material for the open meeting  of the IFSW   Council in
Rome  in January 1961.   A large attendance and  enthu-
siastic participation at the meeting   demonstrate  the
importance  of  professional ethics to  social workers,
individually and in their associations.

  Following  the Rome  meeting,  further analysis of the
responses to the questionnaire showed  that, in general,
the ethical problems  met  by social workers  and  their
solutions for dealing with  them  are alike. The  great
ethical principles are suitable to all, regardless of our
cultural differences.

   Social work today can be compared   to an adolescent.
 As  a newly  emerging   profession, it is highly  self-
 conscious, seeking to assert itself independently  and
 yet eager for public  recognition  and  approval.  To
 mature, the profession must base  its actions on sound
 knowledge  of human   needs  and possibilities, and the
 ability to adapt to a rapidly changing society. To apply
 this knowledge in service to mankind  also requires the
 guidance of clearly defined ethical principles.

   As  professional associations have  developed,  they
 have  addressed their  energies  to  formulating  such
 principles. Diverse as the results may  be, all of the
 Codes of Ethics are directed to social workers: a very
 selected group, selected by themselves in  a choice of
 their career and  by  the  selection of  their training
 schools as Miss Wood  of Middlesex  Hospital in Great
 Britain describes them.

   Professional associations in nine countries have adopt-
 ed Codes  of Ethics. In six or more  others, a code  is
 being developed. Resting on a common   conviction about
 the value and dignity of each individual human   being,
 the Codes have  dealt with a  variety of problems con-
 fronting social workers.


                   Confidentiality
  A   primary concern  is the  professional secret, or
the responsibility of the social worker to guard inform-
ation imparted by  clients as completely confidential. In
France, this principle has been sanctioned since 1945 by
a law  which  extended the  immunity  formerly reserved
to physicians and lawyers, to social workers. This  law
has since been upheld  in the courts.

  In  England  in 1959, social workers studied the pro-
blem  of confidentiality at a Conference on Morals and
Social Workers.  Case examples of conflicts which arise,
for example,  between   respecting a client's confidence
and  protecting a child who   is the victim of behavior
confided  by  the client were  considered.  One   basic
difficulty is that while social workers  recognize  and
accept that they, to some degree, embody   society's con-
science, they are not always in agreement with  society's
judgments  as expressed in law, said Miss E. P. Corner,
M.B.E.,  who   addressed the  Conference.

   In Belgium,  the principles of confidentiality express-
ed  in the Code of Ethics adopted  in 1951  do not have
legal sanction.  This is true also in Canada,  Italy and
the U.S.   In these associations, a great deal of attention
has been  given to the subject in professional writings, at
conferences  and  in professional education.

      Responsibility to Individuals Served
   The  respect and  acceptance of the  rights and res-
ponsibilities of persons is the primary obligation of the
social workers.    Expressed  in  different words, this
concept  is common   to all of the  professional associa-
tions.  For  example:

   The  Belgian Code  states:

     The  action toward the welfare of a client is direct-
     ed  to helping him  to overcome  his difficulties and
     help  him   realize thoroughly his  individual and
     social possibilities, in arousing principally his sense
     of responsibilities, respecting at all times his free-
     dom   of choice.

   The  Code   of  the U.S.A.   Association  requires its
 members  to regard  as my  primary obligation the wel-
 fare of the individual or group  served . . . 


*M11. Brunner 4 -sociated with the Institut de Service Social. Montrouee. France and works closely with Mile. M. L. Ginet. Director of
the Institute and Preident of the International Federation of Social Workers.

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