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Value versus values? The challenge of ethical professionalism in times of austerity. Professor Helen Colley Education and Social Research Institute Manchester Metropolitan University. Introduction . Outline of the problem Three conceptual frameworks Professionalism

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value versus values the challenge of ethical professionalism in times of austerity

Value versus values? The challenge of ethical professionalism in times of austerity

Professor Helen Colley

Education and Social Research Institute

Manchester Metropolitan University

introduction
Introduction
  • Outline of the problem
  • Three conceptual frameworks
    • Professionalism
    • Ethics and professionalism
    • Austerity as context of human service professions today
  • Case study: 14-19 career guidance in England
  • Challenges for careers work
outline of the problem
Outline of the problem

‘The conditions created in the new, re-structured work organisation place workers in an extremely painful psychological situation, one which throws them out of kilter with values of high-quality work, their sense of responsibility, and professional ethics.’

(Dejours, 2009, p.37)

outline of the problem4
Outline of the problem

This is largely met by managers and policy-makers with denial and ‘institutionalised lying’:

‘These obstacles to revealing the truth have always been present in the workplace, but the manipulation of threat to silence opposing views and impose “official” descriptions of work has become incomparably greater over the last 20 years.’

(Dejours, 2009, p.86)

outline of the problem5
Outline of the problem

‘The rationality invoked [in these institutional lies] is, of course, economic reasoning, but we shall also see that this almost always insinuates itself into other considerations related to social rationality, by virtue of principles which are highly dubious on a moral and practical level.’

(Dejours, 2009, p.100)

outline of the problem6
Outline of the problem
  • Neo-liberal policies are driven by an economic rationale.
  • This is imposed on human services and their traditional social and moral values
  • …and intensified by austerity measures
  • This creates severe ethical tensions for practitioners
  • ‘Value’ conflicts with ‘values’
  • How is this playing out in human service occupations and (specifically) in careers work?
three conceptual frameworks
Three conceptual frameworks
  • Professionalism
    • Julia Evetts
  • Ethics and professionalism
    • Sarah Banks
  • Austerity as context of human service professions today
    • David Harvey
p rofessionalism
Professionalism

Occupational:

  • Theoretical foundation
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Discretionary decision-making
  • Moral commitment
  • Control of the work
  • Self-regulation and client trust
  • Collegial relations
  • ‘From within’

(Evetts, 2011)

p rofessionalism9
Professionalism

Occupational:

  • Theoretical foundation
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Discretionary decision-making
  • Moral commitment
  • Control of the work
  • Self-regulation and client trust
  • Collegial relations
  • ‘From within’

Organisational:

  • Ideological basis
  • Disciplinary mechanism
  • Limited autonomy
  • Identity and conduct prescribed
  • Accountability via audit
  • Market regulation
  • Managerial + political controls
  • ‘From above’

(Evetts, 2011)

re framing professionalism
Re-framing professionalism

‘Professional service work organizations are converting into enterprises in terms of identity, hierarchy and rationality. Possible solutions to client problems and difficulties are defined by the organization (rather than the ethical codes of practice of the professional institution) and limited by financial constraints…’

(Evetts, 2011, p.16)

three conceptual frameworks11
Three conceptual frameworks
  • Professionalism
    • Julia Evetts
  • Ethics and professionalism
    • Sarah Banks
  • Austerity as context of human service professions today
    • David Harvey
ethics and professionalism
Ethics and professionalism

Banks (2009) on three understandings of professional integrity:

  • Conduct
    • adherence to codes of practice
  • Commitment
    • identity-conferring, consistent ‘grounded project’
  • Capacity
    • dynamic ability to negotiate complex ‘clusters’ of ethical issues
ethics and professionalism13
Ethics and professionalism

Integrity as:

  • Beyond uncritical reliance on codes of practice
  • Commitment to a set of coherent values
  • Capacity to make sense of those values (inc. their relationship to personal values)
  • Coherent accounts of beliefs and actions
  • Strength of purpose, ability to implement these values – crucial to resisting neo-liberal policies
  • Cf. Evetts – having the ability to say ‘no’
re framing ethical professionalism
Re-framing ethical professionalism
  • Problem with ‘professional ethics’
    • External codes of practice
    • Technically rational models of decision-making
    • Ethics education focused on extreme cases
    • Divorced from political context
    • ‘From above’

(Banks, 2010)

re framing ethical professionalism15
Re-framing ethical professionalism
  • Shift to ‘ethics in professional life’
    • Ethics embedded in the life as lived
    • Moral orientation to encounters with clients
    • Ethics in political context, moral struggle
    • A lot of (invisible) work – ‘ethics work’

(Banks, 2010)

three conceptual frameworks16
Three conceptual frameworks
  • Professionalism
    • Julia Evetts
  • Ethics and professionalism
    • Sarah Banks
  • Austerity as context of human service professions today
    • David Harvey
re framing values as value
Re-framing values as value
  • Falling rates of profit
  • ‘Accumulation by dispossession’
  • Social expenditure shifts from care to control
  • ‘Clock time’ dominates ‘process time’
  • Social reproduction work is commodified further
  • Exchange-value dominates use-values

(Harvey, 2003, 2006)

re framing values as value18
Re-framing values as value
  • Intensifies the ‘new managerialism’ in public services
  • Risk of ‘ethical drift’ (Mulvey, 2001)
  • ‘Ritual practices’ and ‘creative accounting’ (Cribb, 2009)
re framing values as value19
Re-framing values as value

‘To devolve decision-making and responsibility while retaining power over disbursing financial resources and also power over judging whether they have been used wisely and, even more importantly, accountably is a very subtle and clever way of maintaining control and thus exercising power while simultaneously being able to devolve the blame when things go wrong.’ (Allman, 2010)

case study careers advisers in connexions
Case study – careers advisers in Connexions
  • Funded by Economic and Social Research Council 2008-10
  • Initial survey on ‘state of the profession’ in Connexions (Lewin & Colley 2011)
  • Narrative ‘career history’ interviews
  • 17 current PAs, 9 ex-PAs (total of 11 services)
  • Current PAs also kept time-use diaries
  • Background interviews with senior managers and national stakeholders.
re framing careers work in connexions
Re-framing careers work in Connexions
  • Moved into new Connexions service in 2001
  • From specialist to generic infrastructure
  • From specialist to generic occupational role
  • From universal to targeted service (NEET)
  • Severely under-resourced from the start
  • Chaotic re-structuring in 2008
  • Severely hit by current austerity drive
re framing careers work
Re-framing careers work
  • High caseloads affect quality of work
  • Who to help?
  • How to help them?
  • Choosing the lesser evil – creative accounting
  • Doing ‘ethics work’
  • Not just typical dilemmas – individuals carry responsibility for inclusion/exclusion of y.p.
slide23

I just felt like I was doing a really poor quality of job everywhere and actually not being particularly effective with anybody, and that was really stressful, and I thought that I’m not going to continue doing this. It’s not me. (HS, ex-PA)

slide24

I spent most of last week with one client who is homeless and has got lots of issues and no one seems to want to help him because they’ve tried before and they say he doesn’t engage and goes round and round in circles. That was most of my week. (BM, PA, pg.2 of transcript)

If you can help the majority a bit, it’s better than helping one person a lot when they might not even move into something positive. (BM, PA, pg. 4 of transcript)

slide25

I can’t remember which training provider I sent [the client] along to, but it was whichever one was recruiting at the time, and I sent him off to the training provider and that was it. If I had the choice, I would not do that with him, but you know, when these e-mails go out, you’re monitored. You’ll have a monthly supervision, and you were sort of given – it wasn’t the thumbscrews – but you were basically grilled on why you didn’t offer this person this or that or what-have-you. So I felt with this person I had no choice, and you go home, at the end of the day, thinking: ‘Why do I bother? This is not what I trained for’. (BT, ex-PA)

re framing ethics from care to control
Re-framing ethics: from care to control
  • Few or no resources to resolve social, economic and educational problems
  • Main resources = for tracking & surveillance
  • Deeply alienating – ‘working for the Gestapo’
  • Ethical dilemmas, emotional stress
  • Conflicts with managers, disciplinary silencing
  • Crossing boundary out of Connexions – by choice or otherwise
slide27

I found it a little paradoxical that we had to go and do home visits and sort of play a heavy-handed role, and yet if the [young person] came into the office, we had nothing, nothing more to offer, really. That was a difficult situation to be in because it was like a policing, authoritarian thing to do to them. (LJ, ex-PA)

slide28

It’s pressure all the time to get people signed up [for training courses], and I’ve got one [client] now and I can tell he doesn’t really want to do it, and before I came here [today], I was supposed to take him to his training provider for his first induction, and I said, ‘You need to go’. He said, ‘I can’t. I’ve got to stay at home and look after my sister’, or something. So I came away agitated because I couldn’t get the sign on.

slide29

But it shouldn’t be like that at all. The young person has got a situation at home. He can’t deal with it. He’s got things going on at home. He wants to do his driving lessons. He’s got to look after his older sister who apparently is disabled.

So this is the second time he missed his appointment, and I’m putting pressure on that young person to sign up, and it almost reminds me of back years ago when a double glazing salesman rang, saying: ‘Come on! Sign here, sign here!’ I’m thinking, this isn’t right, this.

I had to back right off and say, ‘Fine, if you’ve got things on the go. If you want to sign up, fine. If you’re not ready for it, that’s cool’, and yet I’ll get a bit of background grief [in supervision] about me not achieving a sign-up. I don’t think it should be like that, myself. It shouldn’t be like that at all. It should be person-centred. (SB, PA)

slide30

New ICG Code of Ethical Principles (c.2009)

- third principle ‘duty of care – to clients, colleagues, organisations and self’:

  • ‘Members must fulfil their obligations and duties to their employer, except where to do so would compromise the best interests of individual clients.’

Supporting guidance for the Code also states:

  • ‘Organisationsshould be operating to principles congruent to the ICG Code of Ethical Practice. […] Members should be prepared to challenge [their organisation’s] policies and procedures if they could be an infringement of the Code of Ethical Practice.’
ethics re framing or erosion
Ethics: re-framing or erosion?
  • ‘Ethical watchfulness’ of practitioners should be trusted (Reid, 2004)…
  • …but is subjected to disciplinary approach
  • Those invisible from front-line work pre-construct practitioners’ roles
  • … avoid responsibility for the ethical consequences
  • …and engage in denial and silencing
slide32

‘These obstacles to revealing the truth have always been present in the workplace, but the manipulation of threat to silence opposing views and impose “official” descriptions of work has become incomparably greater over the last 20 years.’

(Dejours, 2009, p.86)

challenges for ethical professionalism
Challenges for ethical professionalism
  • How can the careers profession ‘say no’ to unethical policies (local or national)?
  • When should careers professionals comply, conscientiously object, or adopt ‘principled infidelity’? (Cribb, 2005)
  • How can the careers profession address both the pressures towards unethical practice…
  • …and the denial of ethical problems?
slide34

Allman, P. (2010) Critical Education Against Global Capitalism (2ndedn), Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Banks, S. (2009) From professional ethics to ethics in professional life: implications for learning, teaching and study. Ethics and Social Welfare 3, no. 1: 55-63.

Banks, S. (2010) From professional ethics to ethics in professional life: reflections on learning and teaching in Social Work, in D.Zaviresk, B.Rommelspacher and S.Staub-Bernasconi(eds) Ethical dilemmas in Social Work: international perspectives, Ljubljana: University of Ljubljana.

Cribb, A. 2005. Education and health: professional roles and the division of ethical labour. Paper presented at C-TRIP Seminar Number 5, Kings College, London, 19 October.

Cribb, A. 2009. Professional ethics: whose responsibility? In S.Gewirtz, P.Mahony, I.Hextall and A.Cribb (eds) Changing teacher professionalism: international trends, challenges and ways forward. London: Routledge.

Dejours, C. (2009) Souffrance en France: la banalisation de l’injusticesociale, Paris: Editions du Seuil.

Evetts, J. (2011) Professionalism in turbulent times: challenges to and opportunities for professionalism as an occupational value. Paper presented at the NICEC National Network Meeting, London, 21 March.

Harvey, D. (2003). The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harvey, D. (2006). The Limits to Capital. 2ndedn, London: Verso.

Lewin, C. and Colley, H. (2011) Professional capacity for 14-19 career guidance in England: some baseline data. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling. 39 (1) 1-24.

Mulvey, R. (2001). Ethics in practice: a crucial role for all professionals, Career Guidance Today 9 (6) 20–23.

Reid, H. (2004) Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder: professional common sense and formal supervision as routes to ethical watchfulness for personal advisers. In J. Bimrose (Ed.) Constructing the Future III: Reflection on practice. Stourbridge: ICG.

slide35

Helen Colley

h.colley@mmu.ac.uk