As well as having to follow the codes of practice laid down by the General Social Care Council regarding their professional behaviour and conduct as a social worker, employees also have to follow rules relating to standards and ethics. Social workers have access to very private and secret information about people’s lives and should not reveal that information or take advantage of their knowledge. In dealing with vulnerable people, it is essential that social workers treat all their clients fairly and do not take advantage of the bond and trust that can develop between them. If any social worker is found to have broken the codes of standards and ethics relating to the profession, then they can be struck off the register and lose their position.
Social work conduct
The standards and ethics relating to the social work profession are dealt with under the banner of “conduct” which the GSCC and other regulatory bodies take very seriously. If there are serious concerns that a social worker is unable to do their job because of actions they have taken then the GSCC will investigate. These allegations would have to involve another party who is on the Social Care Register and can include taking advantage of or abusing a person who is using the social care services, their work has fallen below the expected standards, leading to service users being put at risk and behaving in a certain way outside of work that has called the profession into disrepute.
We have all seen examples of the middle problem on the news, when over-worked social workers lose track of cases leading to disastrous consequences for those, usually children, involved. Usually this is not down to negligence but due to the fact that there are not enough social workers employed to deal with all the cases. However, these cases that make the headlines are the reasons that young, inexperienced social workers should speak to their superiors; before the case becomes a matter for the authorities.
Consequences for social workers
If the GSCC decide there is a case to answer, then the social worker involved may be asked to appear before the conduct committee. They will hear the evidence that the GSCC has uncovered and also listen to the social worker’s defence of their actions. There are several punishments that can be imposed on a social worker who is found guilty of misconduct. In serious cases, they can be removed from the register and will no longer be able to work as a social worker, or most likely in the entire social care industry, again. The social worker can be suspended for up to two years, removing them temporarily from the profession, or they can be issued with an admonishment, or public caution, which would remain on their records. All of these would have serious consequences for someone looking to pursue a career in social work, so it is essential that newly qualified students are made aware of the behaviour, standards and ethics that are expected of them while they are a social worker.