Social workers’ experiences with whistleblowing: To speak or not to speak?
Keywords:whistleblowing, accountability, social work ethics, professional misconduct
INTRODUCTION: Reporting perceived inadequate and/or harmful practice has become known internationally as whistleblowing. Social workers have a responsibility to uphold ethical standards and may blow the whistle when faced with what they perceive as unethical conduct.
METHOD: A small-scale, qualitative study explored the experiences of 10 social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand who, having observed what they believed to be poor or unsafe practice, attempted to have their concerns addressed by reporting to a third party or blowing the whistle.
FINDINGS: The research reveals common experiences of limited support for, and retaliation from colleagues and organisations towards, those who spoke out. Participants experienced both personal and professional consequences.
CONCLUSIONS: The research identifies the need for appropriate processes and support for whistleblowing social workers and their employing agencies. Social workers need to be better informed about their rights and responsibilities under the Protected Disclosures Act (2000).
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