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Values are part of my upbringing and play a big part in my life, as they underpin my thoughts and actions. As a social work student I need to question my personal values, beliefs and ethics as these will have a big impact on my behaviour as a professional. My personal values are congruent to the values of social work, which is the reason why I have chosen a career in a social care. This values are self – determination to promote social justice, being caring and helpful toward others, truthfulness (honesty) and respect. Working in Residential and Care Homes further developed my interest in promoting social justice and social change on behalf of the service users. I understand, that as a social work student I need to act in accordance with the values, and ethics of the profession, recognizing how personal and professional values may conflict with the needs of diverse clients.
To value diversity means acknowledging my own prejudices, allowing people to be different and respecting these differences. Being raised in Poland, where 96, 7% of population is polish my upbringing was “white” and influenced my prejudice about people from other cultures. Due to lack of contact and knowledge I have made a preconceived judgment about other races. My social environment such as religion and culture has influenced me to behave in certain ways towards other people. My religion created a stereotype and prejudice about homosexuality. My beliefs would not accept homosexuality due to influence of the church on my attitude towards sexual orientation. Moving to England and changing my social environment made me realize how wrong those perceptions were. Living in multicultural environment made me aware of different cultures, religions, races, which helped me to change my attitude towards people from diverse backgrounds. I have made friends from different parts of the world what helped me to enhance my understanding of different cultures and religions. I have learned how to accept and respect the differences. I understand and recognise that we living in a diverse society and that there is much
to be gained by having a variety of people, with a variety of backgrounds, approaches, talents and contributions.
My experience with discrimination started when I moved to England in 2004. I was often subject to insulting racial jokes. The stereotypes about my culture and people along with labelling were very offensive and painful. The people with whom I have been working held hostile attitudes toward Polish people and culture. I was working in Bed and Breakfast where the majority of employees were English. My employer treated me differently than other employees. When allocating the tasks, she would often give me the most of them living the rest of the staff doing almost nothing. On one occasion one of the employees did not complete the given task and she said “Let the Polish get on with this”. She would not have dared to treat other employees the way she treated me. Probably she thought that she could get away with it because I did not know my rights and my English language was very poor. I found that experience very painful and could not understand why I was treated this way. Later on I have discovered that it was a direct discrimination and it is against the law to be treated this way. There are a number of policies and legislations that could apply to my situation such as:
The 1976 Race Relations Act, which “makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you on racial grounds. Race includes: colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins”. ( www.direct.gov.uk)
The Equality Act 2010 “provides a new cross-cutting legislative framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all; to update, simplify and strengthen the previous legislation; and to deliver a simple, modern and accessible framework of discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society”.( www.equalities.gov.uk)
I could also use agencies such as Citizen Advice Bureau, which provides free advice to foreigners, and often offer a translator to provide information and advice on employment rights, including discrimination. ACAS is another organisation, which provides general information on employment rights and responsibilities.
Being discriminated in the past made me realise how damaging the effects of discrimination can be. I have started to wonder why people discriminate against each other. On many occasions I have witness discrimination but due to lack of knowledge I was not able to challenge it and simply accept or ignore it. Last year on the Access Course I have developed a knowledge which helped me to understand why discrimination happens in society. I have learned different theories behind discrimination which helped me to understand its roots. Since then I have become more observant and started to reflect on my own actions and actions of others. Schon (1983) identifies two types of reflection. Reflection – in – action, which is “thinking back on what we have done in order to discover how our knowing in action may have contributed to an unexpected outcome. We may do so after the fact, in tranquillity or we may pause in the midst of action (stop and think) “(Schon,1987:26). Reflection -in -action is about challenging my assumptions, thinking again, in a new way about the problem that I have encountered. Reflection – In – Action is happening “where we may reflect in the midst of action without interrupting it. Our thinking serves to reshape what we are doing while doing it” (Schon, 1987:26).
By observing others in my current work place I have identified negative experiences present in a Care Home based on feelings of discrimination and unfair treatment which was against my own values and believes. One of the examples of discrimination that I have witness was discrimination through the language. Working in a Residential Home as a carer I have noticed a member of staff using patronising and insulting language towards residents. I found that language very disrespecting and decided to challenge my colleague. I have realized that he held a negative attitude towards older people, as he regards to residents as ” dirty old woman”, and call them as “useless “. I have explained to him that one day he also will be old and
is that the way he would like to be seen. At this point my Manager came in and after explaining what has happen, the member of staff was asked to leave the premises. In reflection on this experience I have realized that people have different attitudes to aged population, which are different to my own attitude.
Another observation involves a resident having negative attitudes towards black people. The resident would not allow a black member of staff to provide any kind of help or personal care. She would shout and swear using insulting language as soon as they entered the room. Because the majority of carers are black it is hard to allocate a white member of staff to help her. When asking her why she does not want a black member of staff she answered that she “does not want blacks to help or touch her because they are dirty and “useless”. On one occasion when attending this resident I decided to challenge her perceptions about black people and called a new black member of staff to help me when giving personal care. I have explained to the resident that she is a new member of staff and she will only observe me. She accepted it but was not very happy about it. While working with resident I started to ask the girl questions, such as why she wants to work here and does she like her job. She responds that she was looking after her grandmother who passed away recently and has a lot of experience and that she enjoys helping other people. The resident was listening but did not say anything. I was hoping that she will change her negative attitude after spending some time with the black member of staff, after watching me having a positive interaction with her. Not being aware of the resident attitude the girl asked her if she would like her to do her hair because she used to do it very nice to her grandmother. The resident did not answer just sat on the chair and gave the girl a hair brush. On that stage I have left the room hoping that this experience will change her attitude and prejudice against black people. The resident now is being attended by black staff without any problems, and communicating in a respectful way.
REFLECTION ON THE POLICIES OF CHALLENGING DISCRIMINATION IN MY WORK PLACE (JEWISH RESIDENTIAL HOME)
The use of Anti – Discriminatory practice at my work place is fundamental to the ethical basis of care provision, and equality legislation is crucial to the protection of service users dignity. It imposes particular responsibilities on public and service providers to avoid stereotyping and to respect service user’s diverse needs and cultural diversity. To challenge discrimination Jewish Care has put into place a written policies and procedures to deal with discriminatory behaviour and practice.
CHALLENGING DISCRIMINATION AND OPPRESSION
A starting point in challenging discrimination and oppression is having awareness of the different types and ways that discrimination and oppression can occur. Thompson PCS Analysis provides a clear and understandable method of consideration discrimination and oppression in the context of personal, cultural and societal levels. The process of empowerment is also crucial in challenging oppression. On a personal level we could empower individuals to take control over their lives, for example through enhancement of self-esteem and confidence. On a cultural level empowerment is concerned with becoming aware of ideologies premised on inequality. Discriminatory assumptions and stereotypes should be challenged in order to break down an oppressive culture. On a structural level empowerment involve abolition of structural inequalities from the structure of society. Education plays important role in challenging discrimination. By educating people to understand the causes and effects of discrimination we can challenge traditional beliefs and practices concerning particular groups and promote equality, diversity, inclusion and tolerance.
ANTI – DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICE
Anti – discriminatory practice is an approach which seeks to combat discrimination and oppression, in terms of challenging all forms of discrimination and oppression from our own practice and practice of others (Thompson, 2006).
As a social work student I need to develop further my anti – discriminatory practice. To do so I have to recognise the significance of discrimination in people’s lives, especially in the lives of disadvantaged people. I also need to develop self-awareness and make sure, that my own action does not reinforce discrimination.
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