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The ethics of care: a forgotten gem of contemporary social policy thinking

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Date: 21.11.2022
Time: 09.30 – 11.00


via Zoom
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A dominant theme of Australian social policy is human rights. In Europe, there is an additional lens to understanding social policy called, the ethics of care. Coming out of feminist research, this approach questions the usefulness of human rights in the day-to-day work of social services. Abstract principles can be of little use in working out disputes between clients that involve competing rights. They can also be of little use when difficult choices have to be made in real time when rights are not necessarily a key issue but the consequence of decisions can be far-reaching. In cases like these, there may be no right answer. But there is a right or good way to make a decision.

In this seminar we examine the ethics of care as a social policy tool. We examine the history behind it, the concepts that have led to its formation, and the way it can be applied in practice.

The ethics of care requires service providers to develop ethical principles  that can be drawn upon to help answer difficult practical questions that arise in day-to-day settings. The wonderful aspect of these principles is that they can be co-designed, with workers and clients deciding on those principles that will work for them, and continue to reflect on whether or not they are fit for purpose or are need of revision.

Participants will come away with draft principles that will be developed in teams during the seminar. They will be empowered to return to their work places ready to develop ethics of care principles that will work best for them, their colleagues and clients.

Who should attend:

  • Suitable for all operational staff interested in reflecting on ways to better work with tenants to deliver outcomes and lived experiences under difficult circumstances. This in turn will provide you with an incentive to drive reforms within your organisation around open disclosure based on the ethics of care and the important goal of continuous improvement.
  • Managers will find this to be a stimulating conversation that might help drive reform and improvement within their workgroup, especially those who regularly face the difficult task of making tricky work-based decisions, almost on a daily basis.
Picture David H

David Hayward is Emeritus Professor of Public Policy and the Social Economy  at RMIT University. He is interim Chair of the Care Economy bid.

He is a former Dean of Business (2004-2009) and Dean of Social Science (2004-2016. He is a life member of the Victorian Council of Social Service. He Chaired the Victorian Government’s Advisory Committee on Registration and Accreditation of Disability Workers (completed 2018). He also Chaired the Victorian Government’s Review of Social Housing Regulation (completed 2022).

His most recent publications are on the NDIS (Journal of Critical Social Policy), the Social Economy (published by VCOSS), and poverty during the pandemic (for VCOSS). He is a regular commentator on social and economic affairs for ABC radio and The Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.