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The Case Study and the Identified Ethical Dilemma

Question:

Discuss about the Community Services Social And Economic Issues.

In community services, working with the ethical framework is essential as practioners and the service providers work with group of people and their families to address their cultural, social and economic issues. For the purpose of community development, I had to recently move to a remote Indigenous community in New South Wales. My role in this profession is to promote the community well being especially for youth at risk of entering into the criminal justice system. As a part of this profession, I have to drive into town, which is 6km from the community. For this purpose, I use large 8 seated vehicle. Since large part of the work is dependent on building trust and relationship with the community, I consider it a courtesy to give people a lift, which according to the manager is against the public sector regulations and the rationale being occupational health and safety issues. In response to this case, the essay aims to discuss if it is ethical to break the rule to build relationships with community members. The essay discusses the ethical issue applying two theories that are rule utilitarian and intuitionism.  

As per the case study, the ethical dilemma identified- if it is ethical to break the rules to build relationships with community members. As a community work professional, it is the responsibility to tap into cultural connections and strengths to promote individual wellbeing. It is well cited in literature that the Indigenous community is socioeconomically disadvantaged (Noble et al. 2016, p. 488). There is a high risk of youth entering into criminal justice system. When travelling alone in the large vehicle given by the department, it is a common incidence to pass through the community members in groups walking to and from the town.  It appears courtesy to offer a lift. The benefit of this kind act is the building of relationship with the members and trust. However, there are challenges due to public sector regulations.


According to the Australian Community Workers Association (ACWA), all the community work professionals are obliged to implement set of documented principles that underpin community work. As per ACWA, the community work professional must respect the rights and legal protections of others. The professionals must act responsibly in the expenditure of public monies. The professionals are suppose to maintain the professional relationship with clients at all times, should not deny the client’s rights, and adhere to the aims, policies and procedures of the employing body (Acwa.org.au 2017). Giving lift to the community member may lead to breach of professional boundaries if it leads to exploitation of the opportunity by the member. Also according to the social work code of ethics, such dual relationship may be harmful to the professional. In this case, it may be harmful as the role is to deal with youth at the risk of entering the criminal justice system (Dowse et al., 2014). As per the NSW Bureau of statistics, there is an increasing involvement of Indigenous adolescents aged 10-17 years old in domestic violence and other types of crime. In last 10 years, there is an increasing participation by the youth in domestic violence by 167% and in malicious damage to property by 47%. Per year 5000 young people have contact with the juvenile justice system and the most common reason for this statistics is the lack of community engagement among the Indigenous people (White 2015, pp. 63-77). 

The Code of Ethics and Occupational Health and Safety

As per the law in Australia, both the employees and the employers are responsible for the health and safety at workplace (Quinlan et al. 2015, pp. 8-17). The occupational health and safety may be at stake in this case if the member taking the lift is mentally unstable and causes potential harm to the community worker as a result of altruism or unplanned relationships. As per ACWA, the community work professional must maintain the code of ethics and the practice standards at all times. The professional must disclose the organisation about any out-of-hours contact with the client.  The principles underlying the code of ethics of ACWA also emphasise that every society is obliged to deal equitably with others and provide for people who are disadvantaged (Acwa.org.au 2017).  However, giving a lift to the community member is equivalent to having an out of hours contact with the client.  It may be considered a breach of code of ethics. In case the person taking lift is wheel chair restricted, it may include risk of injury when transferring from wheelchair to the vehicle and vice versa. This act may hamper the client’s safety (Dowse et al. 2014, pp.174-185). Therefore, this case involves serious ethical dilemma. By applying two theories, this ethical issue can be discussed and explained.


As per the theory of Rule utilitarianism, an action is considered right only if it confirms to the regulation or rules and leads to greatest good. It means the righteousness of the act is determined by the benefits generated by following the rule and its correctness. It indicates that a person must obey the law and ethics of his or her occupation and strictly adhere to it (Rajczi 2016, pp. 857-876). Applying this rule to the given case study, it can be called unethical, to offer a lift to the community member or build relationships with them. It is against the code of ethics as it may lead to breach of professional standards and violation of the guidelines of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of NSW. It may be true as the society is happy when people follow rules. Therefore, before acting it is necessary for the rule utilitarian think about the amount of good it would bring and consequences of following the public safety regulation. Though it is difficult to weigh every outcome, it is the most practicable approach to follow for community development worker particularly when the role is to prevent the youth in Indigenous community to enter the criminal justice system (Dickson-Swift et al. 2014, pp. 138-155). 

Rule Utilitarianism: The Dilemma of Following the Rules or Building Relationships

On applying the theory of ethical intuitionism, it can be called ethical to build relationships with the community members. This ethical theory, which, in moral epistemology is the family of views, refers the intuitive awareness of knowledge and values as the basis of ethical knowledge. It means working as per moral realism and this theory does not align with the people having rational and sceptical mind. Rather, intuition is the spontaneous judgment and is not the result of the conscious reasoning (Sias 2014, pp.533-549). Building relations with the community members is thus a conflicting act where the conflict is between the cognitive dissonance and the adherence to laws and regulations. It is the conflict between the care for others and obeying the authority. It may be a good decision and appear ethical as the benefit includes greater care and public good. It may be helpful to address the social issues of the community by bonding with them , establishing trust and faith to raise the community standards. However, this act is just an outcome of personal emotions rather than a decision based on strong evidence. Therefore, it may be not ethical to break the rules and have any other engagement with the community members beyond the professional boundary. The ethical issues can be solved by following the set of evidence-based strategies (Vardaman et al. 2014, pp. 108-118).


To avoid the ethical dilemma as in this case it is effective not to seek any personal relationship with the community member even if it is with good intention.  It is better to adopt principles that would maximise the happiness, instead of continuously adjusting to factors that would maximise happiness. To maintain the professional boundaries the solution for the community member is to have a balanced work and home life (Baskin et al. 2015, p. 71). It must be kept in mind that the work finishes at the end of shift time and it may not be safe to engage with the client out of the work hours. It is effective set the limits the by clearly informing the community members about the profession and the role of community development. It will help avoid the unreasonable requests such as sexual relationships. It will prevent the people to perceive a friendly relation as a friendship (Richardson 2014, pp.399-407). The best way to make the ethical decision is to establish the facts in the scenario or current event and recognise presence of legal and ethical issues. This must be followed by implementing a rule utilitarian action after evaluating the set of rules that can generate greatest good to the community people.

Ethical Intuitionism: The Conflicting Nature of Care and Authority


It can be concluded from the essay that as a community development professional, it is inevitable to deal with the ethical issues. The essay critically analysed the ethical dilemma faced by the community development worker assigned for promoting the well-being of the people at risk of entering the criminal justice. Based on ethical intuitionism it can be considered ethical to break the rules and build relationship with the community members. However, with the viewpoint of Rule utilitarian, it may be unethical to break the rules. The involvement of the Indigenous youth in Australia in crime is increasing at alarm rate. There is a need of evidence based strategies for their overall development instead of engaging beyond professional boundaries. It is justified to work in conformity with code of ethics, professional standards and guidelines of occupational health and safety.

References

Acwa.org.au (2017. Australian Community Workers Code of Ethics. [online] www.acwa.org.au. Available at: https://www.acwa.org.au/resources/ACWA_Code_of_ethics_Jan_2017.pdf [Accessed 21 Oct. 2017].

Baskin, M.E.B., Vardaman, J.M. and Hancock, J.I., 2015. The Role of Ethical Climate and Moral Disengagement in Well-Intended Employee Rule Breaking. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 16(2), p.71.

Dickson-Swift, V., Fox, C., Marshall, K., Welch, N. and Willis, J., 2014. What really improves employee health and wellbeing: Findings from regional Australian workplaces. International Journal of Workplace Health Management, 7(3), pp.138-155.

Dowse, L., Cumming, T.M., Strnadová, I., Lee, J.S. and Trofimovs, J., 2014. Young people with complex needs in the criminal justice system. Research and practice in intellectual and developmental disabilities, 1(2), pp.174-185.

Nathanson, S., 2014. Utilitarianism, Act and Rule.

Noble, N., Paul, C., Sanson-Fisher, R., Turon, H., Turner, N. and Conigrave, K., 2016. Ready, set, go: a cross-sectional survey to understand priorities and preferences for multiple health behaviour change in a highly disadvantaged group. BMC health services research, 16(1), p.488.

Quinlan, M., Fitzpatrick, S.J., Matthews, L.R., Ngo, M. and Bohle, P., 2015. Administering the cost of death: Organisational perspectives on workers' compensation and common law claims following traumatic death at work in Australia. International journal of law and psychiatry, 38, pp.8-17.

Rajczi, A., 2016. On the Incoherence Objection to Rule-Utilitarianism. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 19(4), pp.857-876.

Richardson, J., 2014. In Pursuit of Philosophy and Best Practice—the Challenges of an Ethical Dilemma. Ethics and Social Welfare, 8(4), pp.399-407.

Sias, J., 2014. Ethical intuitionism and the emotions: toward an empirically adequate moral sense theory. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 48(3), pp.533-549.

Vardaman, J.M., Gondo, M.B. and Allen, D.G., 2014. Ethical climate and pro-social rule breaking in the workplace. Human Resource Management Review, 24(1), pp.108-118.

White, R., 2015. Juvenile Justice and Youth Vulnerabilities. In Interrogating Conceptions of “Vulnerable Youth” in Theory, Policy and Practice (pp. 63-77). SensePublishers.

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