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Evaluate anti-oppressive practice in the workplace (hospital). Demonstrate an understanding of the development of anti-discriminatory practice in social work

In an evaluation of anti-oppressive practice in the workplace, it is important to first define what we mean by oppression and anti-oppressive practice. The Oxford Dictionary definition of 'oppress' is to "govern or treat harshly" (Hawker, Cowley, 1998, p 350), yet here, oppression may have further connotations. As well as 'harsh treatment', oppression here pertains more specifically to the discrimination and disempowerment of traditionally disenfranchised groups, including women, people from BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities, refugees, lesbian, gay or bisexual people, transsexual or intersex people, and people with a disability or learning difficulty, although this list is not exhaustive. With regard to oppression in a social care setting, Lee (2001) states that: "all oppression is destructive of life and should be challenged by social workers and clients" (Lee, 2001, p 60). Anti-oppressive practice, therefore relates to practices that minimise and challenge oppression within the workplace.

Firstly, it is important to note that anti-oppressive practice within a hospital setting relates to both the hospital staff and the service users, as well as on a wider organisational and governmental level, and these will be examined in turn. With regard to hospital staff, anti-oppressive practice relates to recruitment, training opportunities, promotion opportunities and practices that seek to eliminate harassment, bullying or prejudice. Oppression here can be thought of on two levels: an overt level, in terms of harassment or bullying, or inherent within an organisation (institutional), for example, unequal promotion prospects. Anti-oppressive practice within a hospital should seek to eliminate both. Perhaps one of the most apparent ways in which workplaces seek to promote anti-oppressive or anti-discriminatory practice in terms of hospital staff is through their equal opportunities policy, which should consider both the overt forms of oppression and discrimination, and the more subtle form such as institutional oppression. Indeed, an example of part of an NHS equal opportunities policy is as follows:

Anti-oppressive practice has been evaluated with regard to hospital staff, and with regard to patients, and in both instances it seems that in order for it to be effective, it must be practiced on both the individual and institutional level. The institutional level is policy driven, and policies are in turn informed by legislation. As has already been noted, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 have all shaped policy within a hospital setting. A further piece of legislation that relates to anti-oppressive practice is the NHS and Community Care Act (1990). This is credited as having heralded "a new era in community care" (Parry-Jones, Soulsby, 2001, p 414) in which practice became based on a needs-led approach. This is an important step for anti-oppressive practice in that a needs-led approach can take into account the differing needs of people from a variety of backgrounds, rather than applying a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to practice. In this way, individuals should be able to access "responsive services in which differing needs are identified and accommodated so that each person benefits equally" (Neuberger, Coker, 2002, p 90). Once again, it is important to note that the aims and ideals can be different to the substantive reality, yet this is surely a positive step towards anti-oppressive practice.

It is clear then, that there are a number of approaches to anti-oppressive practice, some of which are more readily implemented than others, and although there are some good practices in place, anti-oppressive practice must continue to evolve.

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