Social supervision, ethics and risk: an evaluation of how ethical frameworks might be applied within the social supervision process
Dixon, J. (2010) Social supervision, ethics and risk: an evaluation of how ethical frameworks might be applied within the social supervision process. The British Journal of Social Work, 40 (8). pp. 2398-2413. ISSN 0045-3102
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcq076
Service users subject to section 41 of the Mental Health Act 1983 come under the scrutiny of both the mental health and the criminal justice systems. Much of the sociological literature in this area focuses on the growth of risk-related practices in which risk management is arguably displacing more traditional notions of care. The article outlines how sociological views about risk have been applied to both mental health and criminal justice and considers what effect this might have on mentally disordered offenders. The emphasis on risk in legislation, policy and guidance is then examined. It is argued that social workers face competing demands and that ethical frameworks should be applied in order to consider right action. Kantian, utilitarian and virtue ethics are then explored and consideration is given as to how social workers can apply such constructs to current risk management practices. Finally, literature focusing on the views of service users subject to section 41 is explored in relation to their understanding of risk. The author concludes that a utilitarian position is justified in work with this group of service users but that this position needs to be applied cautiously and that social workers need to balance a utilitarian framework against an awareness of service user autonomy.