Principles that Focus on Individual Clients and Client Groups
1) The social worker should do no harm
As a social worker, you should work towards bringing about change in the lives of your clients. Therefore you should develop programmes or activities in such a manner that they do not underestimate the client’s feelings and positive life styles. Your main focus should be the care and welfare of your clients.
2) The social worker should engage in knowledge guided practice
A professional social worker is expected to equip himself/herself with the latest and most professional knowledge while dealing with the clientle group. Therefore, a worker should not deal with the client without adequate study and analysis of the problem in the present day context. He/she should carefully study similar conditions and intervention approaches to that condition. This is very essential in the Indian context where we have numerous groups with social, cultural and geographic diversity.
3) The social worker should engage in value-guided and ethical practice
Every human being has his/her own values and work on those values. A social worker must always try to recognize the client’s value system to bring about change in his/her situation. He/she should not impose his/her beliefs on his/her clients. The social worker
must recognize that values are powerful forces in human behaviour and be guided by values of social work profession.
4) The social worker should be concerned with the whole person
As a social worker you should deal with the whole person including one’s biological. psychological, social and spiritual aspects instead of studying one dimension of the problem. You should look at the client’s problem from past, present and future perspectives. For example a child is arrested in a criminal case. The worker studies past history of the child, the family background, friendship circle etc. in addition to some of the factors that might have contributed to make him/her a criminal. As a worker you should also be focusing on present situation and the future consequences from various angles. The worker should also focus on both the short-term and long-term implications of the change process for the client and other people who may be affected by the client’s behaviour.
5) Social worker should serve the most vulnerable members of society
A number of programmes have been initiated and the policies have been formulated for the vulnerable section of the society both by the national government and United Nations. However, several vulnerable sections are unable to benefit from such provisions. Therefore a social worker must do work for this section and should fight for their rights to bring about social change and social justice. The social worker must do advocacy for the people who are poor, mentally or physically disabled, those from a minority race or culture, and who otherwise are treated as devalued. They often face special challenges of discrimination, ostracism, and neglect by the dominant society while struggling to bring about social change.
6) The social worker should treat the client with dignity
Every individual deserves to be treated with dignity, regard and respect. A social worker should accept the client as he/she really is, including his/her strengths and weaknesses, his/her positive and negative feelings, attitudes and behaviour with a non-judgemental attitude. This does not mean that you should approve every behaviour of a client. The social worker must treat the client as a person who is valued and deserves to maintain his/her dignity throughout the period of helping process. The social worker’s non-judgmental attitude helps the clients to overcome the common fear of being judged by others. This will enable in developing positive helping relationship rather than defensive action on part of the client.
7) The social worker should individualize the client
Individualization is the recognition and understanding of each client’s unique qualities and the differential use of principles and methods in assisting each one towards better adjustment and participate in the changing process. A social worker must treat his/her client not merely as a human being but a human being with his/her personal differences. The social worker must individualize the client, because for every client the situation and problem may be unique. What works with one client may not work with another.
8) The social worker should consider clients expertise on their lives
A social worker may have great extent of theoretical knowledge of human functioning. However he/she may not know the actual situation of the client. Therefore in a helping relationship he/she should consult the client, who is the primary experts on his/her life. The client knows about himself/herself much better than the worker. In fact, the worker is not expected to know all about his/her client. The client may prefer to keep certain information to himself/herself and may not share all facts.
For example a worker may try to motivate a client to take up a job which might involve night shift. The client may have limitation at his/her home including relationships with spouse, children, aged parents etc.
In such situation rather than imposing his/her idea, the worker must try to understand the circumstances in which client lives.
9) The social worker should lend vision to the client
In the helping process, a worker gives positive hope and a clear vision to deal with the present problem of the client. Worker may introduce the client to new and better ways to cope up with the situation. However the worker should not forget to let the client become
familiar with the limits while offering new perspectives.It is essential to note that the clients are not given false hopes. The social worker must be realistic and honest about limits and possibilities while offering new perspectives, encouragement, support, and techniques for social change.
10) The social worker should build on client strengths
Every individual has some weaknesses and strengths. A worker should not resort to negative way of thinking. Worker should try to understand the strengths, abilities and potentials of the client. For example in the case of a disabled client, the worker must address his/her abilities instead of thinking that he/she is a disabled and can do only limited activities. You should realize that it is the client’s abilities and potentials that are
most important in helping to bring about desired changes.
11) The social worker should maximize client participation
A social worker must encourage the client to give his/ her full participation so that a meaningful and long lasting change can take place. A meaningful change will occur only if the client understands the need for change and is willing and able to take action. In order
to enhance client participation, the social worker should ‘do with the client’ and not “to” or “for” the client.
12) The social worker should maximize client’s self determination
A social worker should give freedom to the client for stimulation and to think independently and rationally on his/her own problematic situation and arrive at a decision, for himself/herself. The client is capable and legally competent to make decisions in relation to self and others. However, it is easier said than done. In order to reach this stage, a worker has to consciously work with the client for a considerable length of time. The job of the worker is to enable the client to explore alternatives as well as analyze the implications of outcomes.
13) The social worker should help the client learn self-directed problem-solving skills
To make the client independent and self-reliant, a worker must help the client learn self-directed and problem-solving skills. By learning these skills a client can cope up easily with his/her day to day problems without having dependency on the worker. For example the social worker should teach their clients how to identify and make use of resources such as family members, relatives, friends, employer, service clubs etc. that might be found in their immediate environment.
14) The social worker should maximize client empowerment
In our Indian society one can easily find out the victims of various forms of discrimination and oppression. It is not possible for a social worker to be available everywhere and every time with a client to save him/ her from such practices. Therefore, it is necessary to empower the client to fight against such discrimination and to manage future situations on one’s own. For this the social work should make efforts to help people gain control over their lives and circumstances, to obtain the much needed information and resources, to develop skills needed to make the decisions, take the actions necessary to attain a higher level of self-reliance and modify one’s social and political environment. In order to empower a client, a social worker should place emphasis on encouraging, teaching, facilitating, collaborating and sharing decision making within the professional relationship.
15) The social worker should protect client confidentiality
Confidentiality is essential to professional relationship. It is the foundation for any therapeutics relationship with a client. Therefore worker should keep confidential the information which is being shared by the client. Sharing such information unnecessarily with outsiders can easily break worker client relationship. Only a professionally qualified worker can practice this principle in letter and spirit. For example the social worker must be cautions regarding what information is placed in agency files, and care must be taken in preparing clerical staff employed in the agency torespect the confidential nature of any materials they may type, file or inadvertently overhear. The social worker must carefully plan the location of interviews to protect confidential information and should not discuss all information during professional consultations with other people and service organizations.
16) The social worker should adhere to the philosophy of normalization
A worker should not discriminate and isolate a client who is mentally or physically weak. This will create barrier for the client in gaining social acceptance. Worker should treat a differently abled client as he/ she treats other clients so that he/she should not feel himself/herself a different person.
17) The social worker should continuously evaluate the progress of the change process
Evaluation is an appraisal or judgment of the worth and effectiveness of the process designed to meet the desired objectives. A worker should continuously monitor and evaluate the progress of the change process. Evaluation enables the worker to discover to what extent objectives have been achieved. Well planned evaluation helps the worker to formulate new objectives and to eliminate unsuited objectives.
18) The social worker should be accountable to clients, agency, community, and the social work profession
In social work practice a social worker should be accountable not only to the client but also to all those associated with the client, particularly to the agency and the community.
Though the worker should attempt to be accountable to all the parties, the client should be given utmost priority. Social workers are obligated to give their best service to all the clients at all times. They must be accountable to those individuals, families and groups they directly serve. Social workers must be accountable to their employing organizations by carrying out their work as effectively and efficiently as possible. The existence of a professional monopoly demands that the members of a profession are also accountable to the community and to the profession itself.