Problems Faced by Social Workers
In India, the interdisciplinary approach is seen working best at a medical or psychiatric facility. The social worker’s role is well defined, whether it is working with the patient’s family, community resources, or patients’ attitudes and feelings. The social worker gets the feel of working with the team and collaborating in harmony for the welfare of the patient. This sort of team work can be experienced in different settings where social work is part of a team. Skills of adjustment, contact, listening, and team work help in this process.
Low status of women, problems of girl children and attitudes of men towards women play vital roles. It is difficult for a social worker who is aware that equal status should be given to both genders and see the submissiveness of girls and women when the male dominance is prevalent in the community. When a young girl from the lower caste was raped in the rice fields by the landlord’s son, the family blamed her.
Families had to yield to the landlords’ unjust wishes. The social worker worked with the individual girl’s self esteem and emotional problems. The social worker helped the family deal with their helplessness to fight against the higher class victimization. The social worker could have educated families in the lower caste about their constitutional, social, and legal rights but it would be dangerous to work with the landlord or the media.
In a just world, the social worker could help the client work with the local government (Panchayat Raj) and see that laws against rape are upheld and the perpetrators are punished. provoked to a confrontation where the clients are unaware of the unjust situation. The right to individual self-determination is not really seen at work in India.
Professionals are given a higher status in the helping relationship and the client is submissive and expects to be directed towards the right path.
In India, prevention is better than treatments because existing laws are not easy to enforce. The legal system in India works for those who have money. Many crimes are not reported because of the belief that the higher class can buy their innocence. The police have been known to falsify investigative reports. They have reported dowry deaths as accidents. Law enforcers are afraid to do their duty because of repercussions on their job (transfer, demotion or loss of jobs) when the perpetrator is rich and from the upper class.
Marital discords and conflicts cause stress in families. There are not as many divorces as there are separations because of abuse, neglect or disease and the father usually gets custody because of affluence or dominance in society. The wife may be sent home because she did not bring enough dowry (bride price), but her children would not be allowed to go with her (unless the husband or his family do not want the children). Social workers find such injustice difficult to work with. Working with diversity of language, religion, caste, culture and different socio-economic status is not easy. The social worker comes in with pre-existing beliefs and values.
They may be in conflict with values of social work and the values prevalent in the society. A social worker from a middle class family (who gave hard work and education high priority) may find it hard to work with an upper class or upper caste youth who has paid an enormous amount of money in donation to get into a medical college. Showing respect for the client at the outset may not come easily for the student who feels anger with people who use money to get what they want regardless of merit. A social worker from a high caste on the other hand may have similar feelings towards a client from the lowest caste (harijan or sudra) because the client got into engineering because of a government policy of reservation for the backward community. It is important that those feelings do not hinder the helping process.
The social worker would have to acknowledge personal prejudices while working in an urban slum. A hut dweller may have different priorities (from that of the social worker) and not care for his family. The social worker understands the client’s right to determine his priorities and does not impose his/her own bias. The social worker may find it easier to work at the individual and family level. Working with the community (government, local leaders or upper class members) would be difficult.
Working with poverty at close quarters and at a regular basis has been difficult for students even though they encounter it daily (Pawar, Hanna, & Sheridan, 2004). An urban social worker placed in a slum to conduct an educative group session would need to walk through narrow squalid streets into small huts and shacks. The social worker could be overwhelmed with deplorable conditions and fail to see the positives. The social worker may show disgust and make the client feel inadequate and inferior. It is difficult for urban social workers to get used to public transport, infrastructure and different concepts of time in rural areas (Pawar, et al., 2004).
The public transport could be infrequent and slow. Finding a particular address in an urban slum or a village is not easy. Social workers in medical settings in India tend to feel inferior to the other interdisciplinary professions. It is not uncommon for social workers to allow clients to call them doctors and even refer to themselves as doctors. Sometimes other professionals introduce the social workers to the clients as doctors. They are under the misconception that clients may not want their services if they are not doctors. This is not an ethical practice and should be avoided at all costs. Even if a few clients refuse to accept social work intervention there will be many more who will realize its benefits.
This lowers the status of social work even more. Clients may falsely believe that doctors are helping is areas which are actually the domain of social work.
Social workers in research practica (in medical set ups) should maintain similar ethical standards. Clients should be made aware of the true nature of the research and allowed to leave anytime without negative impact on medical treatment which was their primary reason for being there. It is not unheard of for social workers to imply that the research is part of the medical treatment and that they would be directly benefiting from it.