Professionals UNDER Judgement: How the Italian Systems Deals with Complaints Against Social Workers

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Carlo SOREGOTTI, University of Milan- Bicocca, Italy
Social professions heavily rely on bonds of trust between professionals and clients: on the one hand society attributes power and authority to the first ones; on the other hand, it requires them to perform accountability and confidentiality, respect for clients’ rights and freedom of choice. This is also true for Social Work: many national organizations clearly state those principles in their Codes of Ethics. However, problems might occur and the professional can be accused of violating such principles. Assessing whether the social worker is to be blamed because s/he did something wrong can be a very difficult but important task. Moreover, some misconducts may pertain to the deontological sphere but they might not be relevant from a legal point of view. In order to address complaints against social workers, some countries have thus developed specific systems that guarantee the respect of rights, norms, and interests for all the subjects involved.

This paper presents the Italian approach to social workers’ professional misconducts, comparing it to the English one. Both are quite new and still under development by their own professional communities, but they clearly adopt different perspectives. The analysis and juxtaposition of the two regulations and the outcomes of the proceedings so far conducted against social workers will eventually outline strengths and weaknesses of the two systems, namely in terms of accessibility, general costs of the systems, its fairness to the people involved, and usefulness for the profession. On these bases, the conclusion will provide some suggestions and remarks for the Italian system of proceeding ethical complaints against social workers. The aim of this study is to underline the importance of this tool for the profession to guard the public against power abuse, to enforce an ethical approach, and to reflect upon practical difficulties of this system.