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Law For Social Work And The Social Sciences

Critical analysis of the legal context of social work. The following structure will help though you need not sequence it in this order:

Select one specific* area of social work that interests you and examine the legal context in which it exists. How is this legislative context manifest in social policy in this area?

What ideological pressures have influenced this social policy? What knowledge/skills or values does an expert social worker need to have when working effectively in this area?

Sample Answer

The main objective of social work as a profession is to ensure that the well- being of members of a given society is taken care of while at the same time ensuring that members of that particular society access basic needs. As a profession, social work ensures that the interests of the vulnerable members of society are taken care of while at the same time empowering and paying special attention to the needs of the poor, vulnerable as well as the members of the society who are oppressed (Hepworth, et al. 2016).  

This paper looks at the legal contexts of social work, the legal context in which human rights activists operate as well as how the various legal policies in Australia have shaped the policies in the area of human rights activism. Similarly, the paper explores the ideological pressures that have influenced the social policies in the field of human rights activism in Australia while at the same time highlighting the knowledge and values which a social worker expert needs in order to work effectively in the area of human rights activism.  Furthermore, the paper looks at how the legal contexts in social work influences the roles performed by a social worker while performing his/her duties as a human rights activist (Dalrymple & Burke, 2006).

Social workers frequently interact with the law in their day to day work. An analysis of the legal contexts under which social workers operate helps one understand how the various sections of the law interact with as well as the impact the law has on the social work practice. Social work as a profession entails making complex decisions with implications in the society hence understanding the legal context of social work helps social workers in making sound decisions which ensures that they are not at loggerheads with the laws of the land (Steiner, et al. 2008).

The code of ethics of NASW, (naswdc.org) [online], maintains that in their daily operations and interactions with the members of the public, social workers both at local and international level ought to ensure that they act in a manner able to promote the social welfare as well as development of the people of the society they work under while at the same time preserving the environment of the community they work under. In addition, NASW asserts that the being aware of the legal system they work under makes social workers aware of the conflicts that are likely to arise in their course of duty and hence prepare on how to confront such conflicts (Ife, 2012).

It is the duty of the social workers to represent the plight of the vulnerable members of society to the concerned authority in an attempt to seek a better life for the vulnerable. In Australia, for instance, social workers are heavily involved in human rights activities in an attempt to ensure that the rights of the vulnerable members of society such as the poor, women, children, the aged as well as the marginalised are respected. The law of Australia fully supports social workers who fight for the rights of the vulnerable (Merry, 2009). However, in the course of this noble duty, social workers are required to abide by the laws that guide their profession.

The Australian legal system is comprised of various types of laws such as criminal law, civil law, private law as well as public law. It is essential for every social worker to understand the applicability of these laws in order for them to avoid collisions with the justice system while in their course of duty (Kadushin & Harkness, 2014).

Human rights activism is one area of social work that has attracted special interest among the social work professionals in Australia. The human rights activists since the pre-colonial era have been very vocal in their fight for the rights of the vulnerable members of the Australian community. This area of social work is recognised by the legal system of Australia and is prescribed under the Australian Parliamentary democracy and guided by laws and legislations in specific contexts (Ratner, et al.2009). Human rights activism as a field in social work is recognised and protected by the Australian judiciary as well as the nation’s High Court. The field is guided and safeguarded by national institutions such as the Constitution of Australia as well as other laws of Australia governing the state and the territories. These laws provide the legal context under which the social workers in this field are supposed to conduct themselves.

The nation has further provided for the creation of an independent statutory human rights body to help stream line this field of social work with the nation’s legal system in an attempt to avert any collision between the human rights activists and the legal system of Australia. The Australian Human Rights Commission is an independent commission provided for in the Australian Constitution to conduct investigations on matters relating to abuse of the existing laws guiding the operations in the area of human rights activism. Similarly, the commission is tasked with the responsibility of conciliating complaints emanating from members of the public and from the legal system regarding the conduct of social workers in this field (Ruggie, 2008). Furthermore, the Australian Human Rights Commission promotes human rights through various initiatives such as education, reporting as well as discussions.

During the fight for Australian independence, human rights activists in Australia fought against injustices such as discrimination among other rights denied to the people of Australia. After independence, the course of human rights activism changed slightly; this time round assuming a new twist of fighting for the rights of Australians that were denied not by foreigners but by fellow Australians. For, instance, there have been several human rights activism fighting for the rights of the marginalised members of the Australian community such as the coloured races of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, women, children, the physically challenged as well as the rights of the Australian immigrants (Moreton-Robinson, 2006). Being a member of the United Nations, Australia as a nation is obliged to observe and respect the Universal Declaration of Human rights which it participated in drafting as a member nation of the UN.

Australia is home to several immigrants from other parts of the world. Since the abolition of the White Australia Policy which barred immigrants from entering and living in Australia, the nation has today become home to several to refugees. However, Australia does not permit entry into the country by refugees who lack proper documentation to enter and live in Australia. To effect this policy, the nation arrests and detains illegal immigrants in an attempt to discourage illegal entry into the country. For instance during the 1990s and 2000s, the Australian authority arrested illegal immigrants popularly known as “boat people” and detained them at the Australian immigration detention  centres located on the mainland or Nauru.

These detentions have sparked a lot of reactions and called for the involvement of social workers in an attempt to protect the rights of the detained refugees. For instance, the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2014 published a report outlining how the rights of children as contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was being violated. In their fight for the rights of children in the immigration detention camps in Australia, the social workers are constrained to operate within the Australian laws that guide the rights of children (Cook, 2012). For instance, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) offers guidelines on the protection of the rights of children. This covenant provides a legal context under which the human rights activists should operate in the attempts to protect the rights of the children of immigrants in detention camps. According to this provision, no child should be subjected to any form of discrimination on the basis of their sex, race, disability or any other form ground (Giddens, 2013). This legal provision is backed by other conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of Any form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Social workers in their handling of the issue of the rights of immigrant children under detention are guided by various principles as provided for under the Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC).

The social workers while working in the area of the protection of immigrant children under detention camps are guided by the policy of social democracy. Under this policy, all children have a right to enjoy the basic human rights regardless of their age, gender, race, country of origin or social standing (Tsutsui & Shin, 2008). The Australian legislative contexts on the protection of children as provided for in the Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC) manifests in the policy of social democracy through its provided principles that guide the treatment of the child in the society. According to the CRC principles;

In any dealings with a child, the primary consideration in any action must put the interest of thee child first.
No action against the child should deny that child of any liberty either unlawfully or arbitrarily.
All children under detention must be treated with utmost respect and in a manner that promotes the inherent dignity of a human being.
Children must be allowed an opportunity to grow, develop and to heal from any possible trauma subjected to in the past.
The policy of social democracy is outlined in the United Nations Convention on the protection of the Rights of persons. Being a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, Australia is under obligation to observe the policy of social democracy in its handling of immigrant children in detention camps (Wotipka & Tsuitsui, 2008). As a result, various UN bodies such as UNHCR have provided the necessary ideological pressures that have left Australia with no option but to provide the space for the involvement of social workers in the protection of the rights of the immigrant children in detention camps. Nonetheless, the social workers in their working in this area of social work must observe the laws as provided for in the various Australian legislations (Mendes, 2008). Observation of the legal rules alongside ethical rules ensures that social workers in their course of duty engage in responsible behaviour. For instance, there have been several demonstrations by human rights activists in the call for respect of the rights of immigrant children under detention. Such demonstrations fall within the Australian legal context that allows for demonstrations and picketing. Nonetheless, it would be illegal and unethical for a human rights activist in this area to use abusive and irresponsible language while demonstrating and picketing (Meekosha & Dowse, 2007).

Social workers working in the area of the protection of the rights of immigrant children in detention camps must possess the necessary knowledge and values to make them relevant in this important field of social work. Some of the values needed in this area of social work include honesty, respect for the law and personality as well as person centred practice (Tsuitsui, 2006). This area of social work is very critical as it entails working with children from various backgrounds while at the same time facing various challenges. It is therefore imperative for the social workers working in this area to possess adequate knowledge and skills in organising, mobilizing, guiding and counselling, leadership as well as ethical skills.

In conclusion, the Australian legal provisions as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) influences to a great extent human right activists in handling the issue of the detention of immigrant children by the Australian authority. The legal context sets out the rules and principles that guide the recognition of the rights of the child. As a result, in working in this area, the social worker in constraints to operate in a manner that reflects the provisions of CRC and respects the laws of Australia.

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